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Biggest Health Worker Strike In United States History Begins

Above Photo: Kaiser Permanente workers mobilized to vote to authorize a strike in late August. SEIU 105.

75,000 healthcare workers across nonprofit Kaiser Permanente facilities walk off the job.

Ongoing fight for safer staffing levels.

On October 4, 75,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in several US states are set to go on strike for three days following the breakdown of contract negotiations last week. A coalition of several unions representing health workers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Washington, DC is battling the nonprofit health giant for safe staffing levels, cost of living pay increases, and against a two-tier pay system that Kaiser is trying to introduce.

The largest union in the coalition is Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) with 57,443 members, but the coalition also includes Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 30, SEIU Local 49, OPEIU Local 2 and others.

This size of strike is unprecedented in the healthcare field in the US. “We are in a healthcare staffing crisis, but Kaiser is unwilling to even meet with our bargaining team to discuss a wage proposal that would keep good healthcare workers at our facilities,” wrote SEIU-UHW. “That has never happened before in the 25 years of our partnership.”

According to SEIU-UHW, internal debate within Kaiser as to whether to allow workers to strike or to attempt to avoid one has meant that the health giant has been absent from negotiations as of late. The union coalition has accused Kaiser of unfair labor practices and as a result will go on a ULP strike.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a mass exodus from the healthcare field. Health workers accuse Kaiser Permanente of not doing enough to invest in safer staffing levels such as necessary wage increases, while raking in over USD 24 billion in profit over the past five years (for a supposed non-profit healthcare provider).

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