PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Nearly 3,400 Kaiser Permanente nurses and other health care professionals have voted to authorize a strike, according to the union that represents those workers.

Over the past week, members of Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals voted digitally on the strike. Voting finished on Sunday night, and OFNHP says there was a 90 percent participation rate, with 96 percent voting yes.

"Our members turned out in record numbers to say that they are willing to do what it takes to save patient care in Oregon," says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO. "Kaiser’s proposals would be a disaster for Oregon’s entire care system and show a profound disrespect for the frontline healthcare workers who are risking their lives during COVID."

The two sides were at odds over what each side considers "safe staffing."

FOX 12 spoke with some Kaiser nurses who say there were patient care issues even before the pandemic. The staffing, they say, is too lean for the numbers of patients they are caring for. Another concern is low wages.

"We've put our proposals forward, but when Kaiser is offering one percent or one percent lump sum, that's far below community standard, and we are definitely expecting an increase to that proposal," Barschow told FOX 12 in September.

Last month, a Kaiser representative said employees represented by OFNHP earn 27 percent above the average market wage.

"Our goal is to keep and continue providing market-leading wages and benefits," Kaiser Permanente COO Wendy Watson said. "We want to attract and retain. So that's our goal. We want to get back to the table and come to an agreement with them."

Kaiser Permanente workers to begin voting on strike Monday night

KPTV file image

Now that a strike has been approved by workers, union leaders are able to call for a strike at any time. The leaders will issue a 10-day advance notification to Kaiser Permanente when the strike is called. After those 10 days expire, workers will walk off the job.

FOX 12 has reached out to Kaiser Permanente for a response. Kaiser provided the following statement from Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente:

"At Kaiser Permanente, we are proud to be one of the most unionized health care organizations in the country. Our history and our future are deeply connected to organized labor and labor unions have always played an important role in our efforts to give more people access to high-quality care and make care more affordable. We remain committed to working together with labor for our workforce, members and communities that rely on us.

We understand that Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (ONFHP) completed a strike authorization vote. A strike authorization does not automatically trigger a strike. Unions are required to provide us with a 10-day notification before any work stoppage could commence.

We strongly believe that differences in bargaining are best worked out at the bargaining table, and we have a 24-year history of union partnership which proves that point.

We will continue to work collaboratively with OFNHP to reach an agreement that meets the interests of both parties.

Our priority is to continue to provide our members with high quality, safe care. In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff.

We are extremely grateful for our frontline health care employees, whose commitment to providing care and service throughout the pandemic has been nothing short of inspiring."

Copyright 2021 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. 

Recommended for you