Healthcare Union Workers Move Closer to Strike

If Kaiser Permanente and unions don't reach a new deal soon, the largest healthcare strike is set to begin next month in multiple states.

Kaiser Permanente sign on blue building
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

More than 80,000 Kaiser Permanente union workers say they are prepared to walk out if they do not reach an agreement with the healthcare giant before their contract expires on Sept. 30.

The national bargaining team of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions - which represents workers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, DC - notified Kaiser on Sept. 22 that it is calling for a three-day strike beginning Oct. 4, according to a statement from the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (UHWW), part of the Coalition.

It would be the largest healthcare industry strike in U.S. history, the Coalition said. It would far exceed a walkout by 53,000 University of California healthcare workers in 2018, which currently stands as the largest work stoppage in the industry’s history.

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It would also be the latest example of labor unrest across the U.S. economy this year. Strikes or threats of strikes so far this year involve unions from various industries including autoworkers, flight attendants, pilots, UPS drivers and writers.

The Coalition is seeking higher wages, bonuses and more staffing among other demands.

If Kaiser “continues to commit unfair labor practices," another longer strike would be called and include the Washington state union whose contract expires on Oct. 31, UHWW said. 

“Kaiser executives refuse to acknowledge how much patient care has deteriorated or how much the frontline healthcare workforce and patients are suffering because of the Kaiser short-staffing crisis,” Dave Regan, SEIU-UHWW president, said in a statement.

Plans in place to continue healthcare services

Kaiser declined Kiplinger’s request for comment. The Coalition did not respond to requests for comment.

In a Sept. 15 statement on its website, Kaiser said that unions account for 75% of its workforce. The company said it has made a number of offers including wage increases, a minimum wage starting at $21 an hour, as well as continuation of its existing health benefits and retirement income plans. 

Kaiser also said it is disappointed that the union authorized a strike but that it has comprehensive plans in place for continued access to needed healthcare services should a strike occur later this year.


Joey Solitro

Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration. 

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