Over 75,000 US health care workers start a 3-day strike

Over 75,000 US health care workers start a 3-day strike

Over 75,000 US health care workers start a 3-day strikeKaiser Permanente is one of the biggest non-profit healthcare providers in the US. On Wednesday, more than 75,000 unionized employees walked off the job. This was the largest strike by healthcare workers in US history.

The striking workers work in California, Colorado, Washington, Virginia, Oregon, and Washington, DC. They are represented by a coalition of unions that comprise 40% of Kaiser Permanente’s staff. Most of the workers on strike are in states on the West Coast. The strike started at 6 am local time and will last until 6 am. Saturday.

The coalition and Kaiser Permanente’s negotiations ended Wednesday without a deal. Still, Kaiser Permanente said in a statement that “a number of tentative agreements in bargaining” had been made.

“While we have not reached a contract settlement, we have been able to reach a number of tentative agreements in bargaining, and our offers to date address the unions’ priorities,” says the statement.

Kaiser Permanente says it will work with union leaders “to reconvene bargaining as soon as possible.”

The strike is the first of its kind, and it comes at a time when there is a lot of labor activity in the United States. Many business workers are on strike for better pay and benefits. After the pandemic, though, healthcare workers have been pushing for safer and more secure workplaces. They want better hiring levels, saying the lack of staff hurts patient care and pushes many workers to their limits.

Who is on strike?

Nurses, food service workers, receptionists, optometrists, and pharmacists are on the picket lines. The workers’ union contracts ran out at 11:59 pm PT on September 30. This is why they are trying to go on strike. James Santos, the field organizer for the coalition of Kaiser unions in Virginia, said that talks between the union and Kaiser Permanente went on through Wednesday but that no deal to stop the strike had been made yet.

Most Virginia and Washington, DC, sites aren’t open 24 hours a day, so the picket lines went away at 7 am. ET.

In a statement released at 9 pm PT on Tuesday, Kaiser said, “Our team is available 24/7 to continue bargaining with the coalition until we reach a fair and equitable agreement. We remain optimistic that there is still time to find agreement before any of the work stoppages called by the coalition unions begin at 6 am on Wednesday.”

But there was still no agreement when 6 am on the West Coast, so workers went to the picket lines.

The strike is only short-term. Kaiser Permanente workers in each state joining the strike will return to work on October 7 at 6 am local time. SEIU-UHW, the biggest union in the coalition, has said that if the coalition and Kaiser Permanente can’t come to an agreement after this strike, there could be a “longer, stronger” strike in November.

What are workers fighting for?

Employees on strike say that the lack of staff has made them feel stressed and worn out. In a recent statement, Kaiser Permanente said it had agreed to speed up hiring and set a goal of adding 10,000 more people for union-represented jobs by the end of 2023.

The union coalition wants better pay, a plan from Kaiser Permanente management to deal with chronic staff shortages, protections against outsourcing, and earlier notice when management calls remote workers back to work in person.

According to a report from SEIU-UHW, progress was made in negotiations before the strike started. However, management and the unions still have a long way to go before employees get raises.

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