Strike Frequently Asked Questions

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Kaiser Permanente Strike FAQ

 

What is a strike exactly?

When bargaining fails to result in a contract we can be proud of, a strike is our last option where union workers, together, refuse to go to work, shifting the balance of power and showing the employer how essential we are.

 

When would a strike occur?

We cannot legally strike while our contracts are in effect. Our national and local contracts expire on September 30, so anytime after that.

 

How much notice do we have to give to the employer?

Ten days.

 

How is a strike determined?

Only a vote of the OFNHP membership would determine whether or not we go on strike. The overwhelming majority of our members would have to want a strike for it to go forward.

 

If I am a member of the union, am I required to strike?

Each union member makes their own choice, but we can say that it requires the vast majority of our members going on strike to make it effective. We will not put in notice of a strike unless it is absolutely clear that 80% or more of represented Kaiser workers who are strike eligible will respect the strike. RDH and Techs are prohibited from striking.

 

How could we strike now in the middle of the pandemic?  

The breakdown in negotiations is Kaiser Permanente management’s fault. On top of years of fighting our demands for better staffing, Kaiser leadership has chosen this moment to push for unprecedented concessions.  Management apparently believes they can take advantage of a public health crisis to ignore our demands for safe staffing, and to lower the standard of living for current union members and our future co-workers.  All at a time positions are going unfilled, there are backlogs in care, and potentially a new surge.  Other hospital and clinic systems are responding to labor shortages and employee burnout by increasing pay and settling contracts.  By blatantly ignoring the reality of an ongoing COVID crisis and a staffing shortage, Kaiser Permanente has displayed no consideration for the physical and mental health of the caregivers who have gone through so much, or for the patients we care for.    It’s time Kaiser Permanente took seriously what we as caregivers have faced and will continue to face in the pandemic.

 

Will I be getting paid during a strike?

No.But it is a sacrifice: we are withholding our work to put pressure on the employer to treat us respectfully by settling a fair contract.

 

What happens to my health insurance during a strike?

The employer has the ability to sever health insurance if a strike goes past the period for which the employer has already paid.  . That said, this is incredibly rare and in almost all cases healthcare coverage is not severed by the employer during a strike. Imagine how the public would respond to learning that KP cut off health insurance during a pandemic — for the very people sacrificing to save our communities.

 

If KP does cut off health insurance, what options do I have? 

Every member and our families can maintain uninterrupted care with the same benefits and costs by paying for COBRA. But again, this is extremely rare. 

 

Which units are not allowed to strike?

If a strike occurs, RDH and Techs will be ineligible to strike because their contract expires at a different date than the other units. They can still support the strike, however, by leafleting, rallying, and taking other forms of collective action.

 

Will it just be OFNHP members on strike?

We are part of a 52,000 member Alliance of Healthcare Unions that covers Kaiser workers in 8 states, many of which may also go on strike at the same time as us. If a strike should become necessary, the Alliance’s goal is for every member in every eligible union to strike together. It will be a powerful show of force across the entire Kaiser system.

 

Will striking hurt our patients?

Not at all. In fact, we would be striking to ensure that KP invests in patient care and those of us who provide it. We use our collective strength to help make that happen. 

Kaiser Permanente has a duty to provide adequate care. And since they need to meet that need they will be pushed to settle the contract as quickly as possible. Remember: this is the employer’s fault. They are highly profitable and we are on the frontline taking care of our patients. 

 

Will the public support us?

Nurses and frontline healthcare workers are the most popular professions in the country right now, and union actions by healthcare workers get huge amounts of support. They know that we saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will support us. Other unions and community groups have already been sending letters of support to Kaiser leadership and they will start signing a community petition shortly. 

 

Will I get fired or disciplined for striking?

It is illegal to discipline a worker in any way for participating in this strike or any other labor action. We are protected and stronger together.

 

How long could this strike last?

It’s impossible to say. The length of a strike is a strategic decision, but usually it lasts long enough to reach final agreements on key issues. The vast majority of strikes end within days to a couple weeks.

 

What kind of issues could make a strike an option?

Striking would only be an option if what KP is offering is not acceptable to the vast majority of our members. We know that our top priority is safe staffing, and if they go after wages and benefits then they will only make this staffing crisis even worse. A 2-tier pay system (paying new employees on a lower wage scale than others doing the same work) or falling real wages could make us want to strike. KP is highly profitable. If we aren’t getting a strong contract in good times, how will we manage when times are tough?  

 

What would be required of me during a strike?

A strike primarily means not crossing the picket line by not going to work.! In addition members should plan on walking the picket line daily, attending rallies, taking digital action, etc. Being on strike is not a vacation from work. It means working together to secure a contract that protects our patients and our livelihoods. 

 

What can I do to make sure our campaign is strong and we win a great contract?

Regardless of a strike, we need you to get active in supporting the campaign. You can join the CAT team, attend any in person rallies, sign and share petitions, use any of the digital backgrounds or Facebook Frames, and, most importantly, share our struggle with your friends and family. This is a shared battle: when frontline healthcare workers like us win, the entire community gets better health coverage.

 

How would a strike end?

Once we reach a Tentative Agreement (TA) on the new contract or a contentious article we may issue a notice of a “return to work,” which means the strike has ended and all striking workers will return to their regular shifts and vote on whether to ratify our contracts.

 

What’s a “lock out?”

This is when management refuses to let striking workers return. A lockout  is only possible when we do not have a contract in effect. While management may have the right tol ock us out, they are limited by the legal requirement to provide safe patient care. Do you think tens of thousands of striking KP union members in 8 states can be replaced? 

Would a "state of emergency" stop our ability to strike?

Absolutely not. Management tried to do this during the St. Charles strike in Bend, and courts did not rule in their favor. Striking is our legal right, and our rights need to be respected! The reality is that management is creating the crisis and they need to solve it.