Kaiser Permanente Workers in Oregon, Washington Overwhelmingly Vote to Support Nationwide Strike Beginning in October
PORTLAND, Ore. – Kaiser Permanente workers in Oregon and Washington turned out in large numbers to overwhelmingly authorize a strike in early October that could be the biggest in the United States in more than two decades.
As more than 80,000 Kaiser workers around the country vote, 4,500 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 49 (SEIU Local 49) in Oregon and Washington voted between Aug. 5 and Aug. 23 whether to approve the unfair labor practices strike at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics. A strong majority of workers turned out to the strike vote, with 98 percent voting to support a strike.
Earlier this month, the 57,000 SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West members who work in Kaiser Permanente’s California facilities voted by a 98 percent margin to authorize the strike. The strike would start in early October and may be the nation’s largest since the Teamsters’ walkout at United Parcel Service in 1997.
“Kaiser workers in Oregon and Washington are prepared to do what it takes to get Kaiser back on track as the healthcare provider that helps patients, employees and communities thrive,” said Jamela Henderson, a Dental Member Assistant at Longview Dental Office in Longview, Wash. “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 advocate for our patients.”
Workers want Kaiser Permanente to bargain in good faith and stop committing unfair labor practices, and are working to negotiate a new National Agreement 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.
As a non-profit entity, Kaiser Permanente is supposed to serve the public interest in exchange for billions of dollars in tax breaks. But in recent years, the corporation has departed from its mission:
Kaiser made more than $5.2 billion in profits during the first half of 2019, bringing its profits to more than $11 billion since Jan. 1, 2017. The company also sits on more than $37 billion in reserves.
- Executive pay:
Kaiser gave its CEO a $6 million raise to $16 million a year and pays at least 36 executives a million dollars or more a year.
- Turning its back on workers:
Kaiser has worked to destroy what had been the most successful and largest worker- management partnership in the country that was a source of innovation and problem- solving for many years; it has committed numerous unfair labor practices, including refusing to bargain in good faith.
- Destroying good jobs.
Kaiser is actively destroying good jobs by outsourcing them to companies that pay low wages with few benefits, and wants to limit the wages and cut the benefits of its frontline healthcare employees.
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.