Kaiser pharmacy workers continue 3-week strike, approve to double it

As hundreds of pharmacy workers for Kaiser Permanente continue striking for up to three weeks in Oregon and Southwest Washington, their union approved another strike that could last almost four more weeks. 

The strike of pharmacy technicians, clerks and warehouse workers began Oct. 1 while UFCW Local 555 meets with representatives for the Oakland, Calif.-based system. The union said Kaiser offered "an insulting, out-of-touch proposal" to increase wages 3% every year. UFCW Local 555 is bargaining for a 43% wage increase over four years.

If an agreement is not reached, the Kaiser pharmacy workers are set to strike again between Oct. 23 and Nov. 18.

A Kaiser spokesperson told Becker's it is "committed to bargaining in good faith with the goal of reaching an agreement" with the union, which represents 380 pharmacy employees.  

Among 17 Kaiser medical offices in Oregon and Southwest Washington, seven pharmacies are temporarily closed and 10 remain open during the current strike, according to the system's website. Its mail-order pharmacy and hospital pharmacy services are open. 

The union said the open pharmacies "are struggling to meet the needs of patients," adding that complaints of unlicensed pharmacy technicians working at Kaiser locations have been reported to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy.  

Becker's has reached out to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to verify whether the board has received reports of Kaiser employing unlicensed pharmacy techs. This article will be updated if more information becomes available. 

"Member safety is our top priority," a Kaiser statement said. "Our extensive preparations for the strike included bringing highly trained contract pharmacy staff and additional healthcare support staff on board to work alongside our pharmacists." 

A Kaiser spokesperson added that the system is exclusively employing licensed workers where a license is required. 

This ongoing strike is separate from the labor action of more than 85,000 Kaiser workers, who went on a three-day strike in early October, reached a tentative deal with the system Oct. 13 and planned another "significant work action" in early November if a new labor deal is not reached. During that six-statewide strike, at least 18 outpatient Kaiser pharmacies were temporarily closed.

Editor's note: This story was updated Oct. 18 to include additional comments from Kaiser Permanente's spokesperson. 

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