Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers to rally against layoffs

Healthcare workers from Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente will rally May 18 at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center to protest layoffs, according to a union statement.

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said workers from the Oakland facility and other Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the Bay Area are slated to participate.

"The Oakland caregivers Kaiser is cutting were at ground zero of the COVID-19 response. We turned coronavirus patients on their stomach and held them so they could breathe," Joann Corgile, a patient care technician at Kaiser Permanente Oakland, said in a May 17 news release. "We held their phones up so they could say goodbye to their families. We were often the last person to hold their hands. And now Kaiser wants to show us the door? That hurts."

The union said Kaiser Permanente also appears to be targeting the Oakland facility for cutbacks in patient care. 

Kaiser Permanente confirmed May 2 that the health system is laying off about 200 Northern California employees as part of a staffing reorganization. The layoffs primarily affect nonclinical administrative support roles, as well as temporary, on call and per diem workers.

In a May 17 statement shared with Becker's, the healthcare giant expressed gratitude for workers' commitment and dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaiser Permanente also said it respects the rights of union members to lawfully gather and express their concerns, but strongly disagrees with SEIU-UHW's claims related to the layoffs.

"Kaiser Permanente has a long history of successfully identifying opportunities within our organization for employees affected by staffing changes," the health system said. "We have 4,000 open positions across Northern California and more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians in the state. About 200 mainly nonclinical administrative support positions in Northern California were affected by a recent reorganization that improved work processes to better serve our members and patients."

Kaiser Permanente said it is committed to helping employees affected by the layoffs find other positions within the health system, and if that is not possible, the health system provides benefits to eligible employees that typically include job placement and training, and up to a year of pay and benefits.

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West represents more than 100,000 healthcare workers, patients and healthcare activists in California.

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