On Monday, 35,000 workers will begin an indefinite strike at Kaiser Permanente across multiple states. These union workers have been bargaining with Kaiser over staffing levels, wages, and working conditions as members of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, 3,400 of which are in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Even more Alliance represented union locals have announced strikes since the original notification, as well as other unaffiliated unions such as the Guild for Professional Pharmacists.
“All Kaiser patients and employees are being affected by the staffing crisis, and Kaiser has offered low wage proposals to workers across a range of professions that would devastate our entire care system,” says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO (OFNHP), the union that represents Kaiser workers in Oregon and Washington. “All union workers are stronger when we come together as one, and that is what is happening now. This is a historic strike that is quite literally a fight for the future of our healthcare system. What happens now determines whether or not Kaiser will put patients over profits.”
The 3,400 Oregon and Southwest Washington workers, which include RNs, “Pros” such as Nurse Practitioners and Physician’s Assistants, and Lab Professionals, will be joined by a total of 32,000 healthcare professionals across five states as the strike spreads around the country. OFNHP negotiates over nationwide issues as part of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, a coalition of 21 unions representing a total of 52,000 workers. A staggering 96% of voting OFNHP members chose to authorize a strike on October 11th after unanimous recommendations from all bargaining teams.
“The Kaiser healthcare heroes risked it all to help patients and families on the frontlines of COVID-19—and in response, their employer decided to punish rather than celebrate them,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Even as the pandemic begins to ebb, Kaiser workers remain short-staffed and just as exhausted and besieged as they were in the virus’ darkest days. They are tired and fed up, but they know that until their employer’s greed is overcome, patient care will continue to suffer.”
“Instead of investing in its most important asset, Kaiser is putting a match to their dignity and respect. That is why workers are striking and why the AFT and the entire U.S. labor movement is standing shoulder to shoulder to defend them until they win the justice they deserve.”
The primary issues relate to lack of adequate staffing, which has reached crisis levels at Kaiser and in other healthcare settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than a half a million workers have left healthcare since the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of presenting proposals to solve the staffing crisis, Kaiser executives have offered low wages and a “two tiered” system that would mean new workers would make much less than their colleagues.
This would accelerate the staffing crisis, ensuring dangerous conditions in hospitals and clinics around Oregon. Kaiser RNs and other healthcare professionals have filled out a survey asking how they are responding to the crisis. 42.2% of those surveyed report that they are considering leaving the field entirely over the treatment they have received at Kaiser. Over 60% report they are considering leaving Kaiser Permanente as a company. Kaiser has made inaccurate claims that its workers are paid above market rate, but in reality their current offers would ensure they are not keeping up with their peers, making it more difficult to recruit and retain high quality workers.
On September 28th, nearly 800 people rallied in front of Kaiser’s corporate office in Portland, with union members joined by dozens of organizations and hundreds of supporters. Secretary of State Shemia Fagen led the rally, and thirty-two state legislators and state senators, led by Kaiser physician Dr. Maxine Dexter, issued a letter of support for the union workers and their fight for safe staffing and a fair contract, a statement that was recently matched by Senator Bernie Sanders. The Oregon Nurses Association, another nurses 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. We’ve received an outpouring of support from hundreds of elected officials, International Unions representing more than 12.5 million Americans, and strike sanction and support for our picket lines from local unions and Central Labor Councils representing more than 1.1 million union members. The support has only grown as community organizations, faith leaders, and political officials join the fight to push Kaiser towards settling a fair contract and protecting our healthcare system.
There will be a launching rally on the first day of the strike, November 15th, at Overlook Park near the Kaiser Interstate campus at 2pm that will be led off by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and will feature other community and political leaders.
- 10220 SE Sunnyside Road
- Clackamas, OR
- Picket Captains: Keely, Christian
- 2875 NW Stucki Avenue
- Hillsboro, OR
- Picket Captains: Aaron, Nick
Cascade Park (CPK) - Vancouver
- 12607 SE Mill Plain Blvd.
- Vancouver, WA
- Picket Captains: April, Dustin
- 1230 7th Avenue
- Longview, WA
- Picket Captains: Ida, Shirlee
N. Lancaster (NLR) – Salem
- 2400 Lancaster Drive NE
- Salem, OR
- Picket Captains: Laurie, Sam, Ian (first day)
Interstate South (3500 N. Interstate Avenue, Portland)
- Overlook Park (N Fremont Street and Interstate Avenue, Portland)
- Picket Captains: Marika, Seth