PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Nearly 3,400 Kaiser Permanente workers from both Oregon and southwest Washington plan to walk out on strike Nov. 15.
The announcement came Thursday afternoon with the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, the union representing the workers, citing harmful proposals put forward by Kaiser leadership as the driving factor in the potential strike.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – A healthcare employee union and Kaiser Permanente reached an agreement on a new contract on Saturday, averting a possi…
The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals is now informing Kaiser that unless negotiations improve, 3,400 members of the staff will be gone until further notice. Similarly, 32,000 other Kaiser workers plan to begin striking around the same date and an additional 8,000 are said to potentially follow shortly after across five states.
“We hoped that simply authorizing the strike, holding rallies and other forms of collective worker and community action would push Kaiser to do the right thing, but they have continued to push proposals that would create dangerous conditions for patients and staff,” says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. “Striking is our last resort, but it is what we must do so that we can protect our patients, our workers, and our entire public healthcare system from the disastrous attack Kaiser leadership is staging.”
The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals said the primary issues relate to lack of adequate staffing, described by the union as reaching “crisis levels at Kaiser.”
The union also said executives from the hospital have presented workers with offers of low wages and a two-tiered system, meaning new workers would make significantly less than their colleagues. Kaiser employees reportedly fear this would only accelerate the staffing crisis.
In a statement on Friday, Kaiser Senior Vice President of Human Resources Arlene Peasnall argued Kaiser is incredibly friendly to the labor unions.
"Our history and our future are deeply connected to organized labor. Labor unions have always played an important role in our efforts to provide more people with access to high-quality care and to make care more affordable," Peasnall wrote.
Peasnall added that Kaiser offered a 4 percent yearly increase in pay for workers to the national union, Alliance of Health Care Unions. Kaiser Permanente said this would be in addition to "market-leading" benefits and retirement programs.
"The challenge we are trying to address in partnership with our unions is the increasingly unaffordable cost of health care. And the fact is, wages and benefits account for half of Kaiser Permanente’s operational costs," Peasnall said.
Despite negotiations, no deal has been reached. A recent showing of growing support for union members took place Sept. 28 when nearly 800 people rallied in front of Kaiser’s corporate office in Portland with union members joined by other organizations and supporters. Secretary of State Shemia Fagen led the rally, and 32 state legislators and senators issued a letter of support for the union workers.
The Oregon Nurses Association, another nurse’s union representing over 15,000 health professionals in Oregon, recently announced that their members will respect the picket line and will not act as replacement workers for Kaiser.