75,000+ Kaiser workers prepare to strike: 8 things to know

Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente employees across the U.S. are preparing to go on strike this week after their contract expired with no new labor agreement in place.

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser is bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. Negotiations began in April. Here are eight things to know about where things stand:

1. Unions in the coalition, including the Office and Professional Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union, voted to authorize a strike in September.

2. On Sept. 22, the unions' national bargaining team submitted a 10-day notice to Kaiser indicating that coalition unions are calling for their first unfair labor practice strike, and some sympathy strikes, from 6 a.m. Oct. 4 through 6 a.m. Oct. 7. 

3. A strike could be averted if an agreement is reached. However, a strike appears more likely, as union workers' national contract with Kaiser expired after Sept. 30 with no new deal in place. 

4. As of Oct. 2, more than 75,000 Kaiser workers plan to strike across California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C. — in what could be the nation's largest healthcare worker strike in history.

5. "There have been good discussions with Kaiser on a number of issues, and while there is no concrete agreement, we can see a path to resolution on raising shift differentials, a fair remote work agreement, and investments in training for both current employees to promote to harder to fill jobs and community members to become the healthcare workforce needed for the future," a statement from the coalition reads. But the statement noted the parties remain "far apart" on several matters, including across-the-board raises, protections against subcontracting and outsourcing, applying union organizing rights to any system Kaiser may acquire, an amount for performance-sharing bonuses and a premium subsidy/health reimbursement retiree medical plan. 

6. In a statement shared with Becker's late Sept. 30, Kaiser said the organization and coalition "continue to make progress on key issues such as a redesigned performance-sharing plan with updated payout opportunities." Kaiser said the parties reached tentative agreements in travel for continuing education, the use of temporary workers such as traveling nurses, tracking of staffing vacancies, and dispute resolution. "While the current national agreement expires at midnight PDT on Sept. 30, operations will continue as normal on Sunday morning, and we will continue to honor all current contract provisions," Kaiser said.

7. Kaiser also said it remains optimistic that it will reach an agreement with the coalition "and avoid an unnecessary strike." If a strike does occur, there are contingency plans in place to ensure safe, high-quality care continues for the duration of the strike, Kaiser said, adding that "hospitals and emergency departments will remain open."

8. The coalition represents workers at Kaiser facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Workers planning to strike are in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. A Kaiser spokesperson told The Washington Post that union members in Virginia and the District of Columbia include 400 pharmacists and optometrists who plan to strike for 24 hours. No workers are slated to strike in Maryland.

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