As Strike Looms, Workers to Picket Aug. 14 Commonwealth Club Panel Hosted by Kaiser
Mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, Portland Won’t Cross Picket Line; Withdraw from Participating in Commonwealth Club Forum
SAN FRANCISCO – At 5 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 14, Kaiser Permanente workers preparing for the nation’s largest strike in more than 20 years will picket a Kaiser-sponsored forum at the Commonwealth Club, 110 Embarcadero in San Francisco, to protest the healthcare giant’s focus on profits and executive salaries instead of living up to its mission to help patients and communities thrive.
The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and Portland have withdrawn from the panel discussion on homelessness, saying they will not cross the picket line. Workers have pointed out that Kaiser perpetuates the kind of inequality that contributes to homelessness.
“As members of this community and Kaiser Permanente workers, we care deeply about homelessness, and even though we have jobs, we too struggle with issues of housing affordability,” said Ethan Ruskin, a health educator at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose. “Homelessness is increasing dramatically in California cities, and at the same time income inequality is skyrocketing – something which is being driven by large corporations like Kaiser Permanente.”
As a non-profit, Kaiser is supposed to serve the public interest in exchange for billions of dollars in tax breaks. But in recent years, Kaiser has departed from its mission by:
- Reporting $11 billion in profits since Jan. 1, 2017, including $5.2 billion in the first half of 2019 – meaning it made more profits in six months than it has ever made in a full year;
- Providing more than $1 million in annual compensation to 36 executives – including $16 million to its CEO, Bernard Tyson, who by participating in the Commonwealth Club forum symbolizes income inequality;
- Failing to serve its share of low-income patients compared to other non-profit health systems;
- Attempting to send jobs to outside companies that pay workers less and offer fewer benefits; and
- Committing more than $1.2 billion to luxury items, including $900 million for a new corporate headquarters in Oakland and a $295 million sponsorship deal with the Golden State Warriors.
More than 37,000 Kaiser Permanente workers across California recently voted to authorize an unfair labor practices strike against the corporation, beginning in October. The workers’ national contract expired Sept. 30, 2018, and in December 2018 the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith. Since then, Kaiser has continued to commit unfair labor practices.
Strike authorization votes among other groups of Kaiser Permanente workers in California, and employees in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia run through mid-September. The strike would start in early October and be the nation’s largest since the Teamsters’ walkout at United Parcel Service in 1997.
Workers are fighting for a new contract that would:
- Restore a true worker-management partnership, and have Kaiser bargain in good faith;
- Ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology;
- Build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years; and
- Protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.
WHAT: More than 100 healthcare workers and allies will picket outside a Commonwealth Club forum sponsored by Kaiser Permanente.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14
WHERE: Commonwealth Club 110 Embarcadero San Francisco, Calif. 94105
VISUALS: More than 100 healthcare workers holding signs and marching in front of the building. Workers will be available for interviews.
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The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, representing more than 80,000 Kaiser caregivers. To learn more, visit www.KaiserKeepThriveAlive.com.