Dozens arrested in Labor Day protest outside Los Angeles Kaiser facility

Roughly two dozen people were arrested in a civil disobedience action in front of the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Hollywood after a Labor Day demonstration, the Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 4. 

Healthcare workers held the rally and march to call for improved working conditions and draw attention to their concerns over issues such as pay and staffing. 

During the march, police declared an unlawful assembly, according to ABC affiliate KABC

Most protesters ended up moving onto the sidewalk. However, about two dozen people seated in the street were arrested, cited and later released without incident, police said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West organized the rally and march, which was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, as the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is in negotiations with Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente. The coalition represents about 85,000 workers at Kaiser hospitals, clinics and facilities in seven states and Washington, D.C.

Union members recently launched a strike authorization vote over what they say are unfair labor practices, according to a news release shared with Becker's. They contend Kaiser has failed to bargain in good faith and adequately address their concerns over what they deem as unsafe staffing levels. If a strike occurs, union representatives say it would be the largest healthcare strike in U.S. history.

"We are burnt out, stretched thin, and fed up after years of the pandemic and chronic short staffing. Healthcare providers are failing workers and patients, and we are at crisis levels in our hospitals and medical centers," Datosha Williams, a service representative at Kaiser Permanente South Bay in Harbor City, Calif., said in the release. "Our employers take in billions of dollars in profits, yet they refuse to safely staff their facilities or pay many of their workers a living wage. We are prepared to do whatever it takes, even get arrested in an act of civil disobedience, to stand up for our patients."

In a statement shared online ahead of the Labor Day protest, Kaiser Permanente said it was "committed to bargaining with our Coalition unions in good faith and in the spirit of partnership." 

Kaiser Permanente also expressed confidence that the parties would reach an agreement before the current contract expires Sept. 30.

Kaiser Permanente has acknowledged staffing challenges while maintaining that it "weathered these staffing challenges better than most healthcare organizations," with an average employee turnover rate of 8.5 percent as of June 2023.

Kaiser Permanente has also emphasized its commitment to accelerate hiring. Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition have set a joint goal in bargaining of hiring 10,000 new people for Coalition-represented jobs this year. In the statement, Kaiser noted the system pays above-market wages to attract and retain employees, along with offering "outstanding" benefits and opportunities for career growth.

Kaiser Permanente's full statement is available here

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