Labor leaders said there could be another walkout next month if they don’t reach an agreement with the California-based health system. The sides are slated to resume talks later this week.
Just days after wrapping up what they called the largest healthcare workers’ strike in American history, Kaiser Permanente union leaders warned of the potential for another walkout.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said Monday that it had notified the health system’s leaders that they could stage a second strike in November, if the two sides can’t reach a deal. More than 75,000 union workers, including nurses, pharmacists, radiology technologists, and others, walked out last week. Most were on the picket lines for three days.
The Coalition said a second strike, if it happens, would be longer. The second strike would begin Nov. 1 and last until Nov. 8, the union said.
Union leaders say they are seeking higher staffing levels, saying it’s key to retaining workers and improving patient care. They also say they are seeking better compensation.
The Coalition also said Monday that seeking protections against outsourcing is emerging as a major issue in the contract dispute. They say they want provisions to protect workers from subcontracting and outsourcing.
Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, said the health system hasn’t listened to the concerns of frontline workers about “the impacts that the Kaiser short staffing is having on patients.”
“This week, Kaiser executives will have another opportunity to listen to frontline staff, to follow the law in formal discussions, and to begin investing in ways that will solve the Kaiser short staffing crisis,” Lucas said in a statement Monday.
For its part, Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, Calif., says it has offered wage increases, including minimum wages across the entire system. Kaiser also says it would continue to provide strong benefits and has hired 10,000 Coalition-represented workers this year.
“We look forward to reaching a new agreement that continues to provide our employees with market-leading wages and benefits, and ensures our high-quality care is affordable and available to meet our members’ needs,” Kaiser Permanente said in a statement last week.
Kaiser Permanente and union leaders are slated to hold negotiation sessions on Thursday and Friday. The union said talks could continue into the weekend.
The coalition said it’s waiting until Nov. 1 for a potential second strike because a union representing workers in Seattle is nearing the end of its contract. The Seattle pact is slated to expire Oct. 31, and if it does lapse without a new deal, another 3,000 workers could join the tens of thousands of others walking off the job.
Kaiser operates 39 hospitals and more than 600 other medical offices in several states. Kaiser’s health plan serves nearly 13 million members.
The Coalition has said it’s looking for a four-year pact with raises of 6.5% in each of the first two years and 5.75% in each of the final two years. Kaiser Permanente is offering increases ranging from 3% to 4% in each year of a new four-year contract, depending on the market.
Kaiser Permanente also says it’s offering minimum wages for all employees ranging from $21 to $23 in 2024, depending on the market, with the minimum wage range rising to a range of $23 to $25 in 2026.
The contract with the Coalition expired Sept. 30. Unions held strike authorization votes last month in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., with members overwhelmingly approving a walkout.