Colorado Kaiser workers authorize nationwide strike affecting more than 80,000 employees

Kaiser Permanente workers in Colorado have voted to empower their bargaining team to call a nationwide strike in early October that would affect more than 80,000 employees at Kaiser facilities, according to the union that represents them.

The Service Employees International Union Local 105 — which represents more than 7,000 healthcare and property service workers in Colorado — said Sept. 12 that its members voted in the last three weeks to authorize the strike.

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente Colorado workers turned out to vote, with 62 percent casting a ballot and 96 percent of those voting in favor of authorizing a strike, according to the union. The vote does not mean a strike will take place. However, union leaders have the authority to issue a formal strike notice if they so choose. 

"Kaiser workers in Colorado are prepared to do what it takes to get Kaiser back on track as the healthcare provider that helps patients, employees and communities thrive," Patricia Johnson-Gibson, a healthcare vice president at SEIU Local 105 in Denver, said in a news release. "Kaiser has strayed too far from its mission — instead of prioritizing quality patient care and the workers who help provide it, they have shifted their focus to maximizing profits for their executives. We hope this strike vote sends a message to Kaiser that workers are willing to do whatever it takes to advocate for our patients and our families."

The voting in Colorado comes as more than 80.000 Kaiser workers nationwide consider whether to empower their bargaining team to call an October strike. If a nationwide strike is called, it would be the country's largest since 1997, according to SEIU Local 105. The strike would affect more than 80,000 Kaiser workers in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. 

Kaiser Permanente Colorado said Kaiser and SEIU Local 105 have been joining forces to reach a labor deal that is mutually beneficial as part of the national bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions that started in April.

But union leaders unfortunately are using the strike threat "to divide employees and mischaracterize Kaiser Permanente's position," the Kaiser released stated The strike authorization vote "reflects obviously misleading ballot questions used by the union," Kaiser claims.

The health system presented an offer to union leadership "that would provide annual pay increases that would keep our employees compensated competitively and maintain excellent benefits," its news release states.

 

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