80,000 Kaiser Permanente workers to vote on giving union OK to call strike

More than 80,000 healthcare workers at facilities owned by Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente are preparing to vote in July and August on whether to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike, according to the unions that represent them.

The announcement came in a July 12 news release from the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions — comprising 11 labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. 

"While we have been providing care 24/7, holding the hands of sick and frightened patients and making sure they are safe and get the treatment they need, Kaiser has been focused on racking up multibillion-dollar profits and paying executives exorbitant, million-dollar salaries," Ida Prophet, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser South Sacramento in California, said in the coalition news release. "This is a nonprofit company that has lost its way and is acting more like a typical for-profit corporation."

The coalition said a strike is possible if Kaiser does not negotiate in good faith. It is fighting for safe staffing levels, "compassionate use of technology," financial transparency and wages and benefits "that can support families," among other issues.

Dennis Dabney, senior vice president of national labor relations and the office of labor management partnership at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, described the coalition's news release as a misrepresentation of where contract talks stand.

In a statement to Becker's, he noted a strike has not been called and that both sides have agreed to continue discussions toward a mutually beneficial deal.

"Throughout our conversations … there has been a great deal of common ground around several major issues, including workforce planning, revitalizing employee and manager training and education, improving performance outcomes, strengthening issue resolution and problem-solving processes, eliminating workplace injuries and collaborative work to forecast the care needs of our patients in the future," said Mr. Dabney.

"We believe we have a framework for resolving negotiations successfully, which will address those areas and also continue to provide market-competitive wages and benefits," he added.

 Mr. Dabney said Kaiser looks forward to reaching an agreement soon.


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