Kaiser workers vote Monday on giving bargaining team OK to call biggest strike in 20 years

Kaiser Permanente workers will begin voting July 29 on whether to empower their bargaining team to call a nationwide strike that would affect more than 80,000 employees at Kaiser facilities, according to CBS San Francisco.

Workers are members of unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. They are scheduled to vote on whether to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike beginning in October. If a strike occurs, it would be the country's largest walkout since the 1997 Teamsters strike at UPS, according to the unions representing Kaiser workers.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, one of the unions representing Kaiser employees, said workers assert that Kaiser "has strayed far from its mission of serving communities and helping patients and caregivers 'thrive.'" 

Union leaders 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.

In a statement to Becker's, Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser, called SEIU-UHW's push for a strike authorization vote "counterproductive and simply a bullying tactic designed to pressure us during the contract bargaining process."

"Unfortunately, for more than two years, the leadership of SEIU-UHW has been waging a power play within the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and demanding control. This behavior ultimately caused a split in the coalition and two-thirds of the unions withdrew from the group last year, eventually forming the Alliance of Health Care Unions," the statement said.

"Kaiser Permanente bargained with and reached agreement with the Alliance last fall. Today, led by SEIU-UHW leadership, the coalition is demanding a contract that is superior to the one reached with the alliance and all our other contracts," Kaiser added.

The coalition comprises SEIU-UHW; International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 20; Office and Professional Employees International Union locals; Service Employees International Union Local 49; Service Employees International Union Local 121RN; Service Employees International Union Local 10; and Service Employees International Union 1199N.

Editor's note: This story was updated July 29 with a new statement from Kaiser.


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