PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington intend to strike in less than two weeks.
In an announcement on Thursday afternoon, a total of about 3,400 hundred registered nurses and health care providers from Kaiser Permanente formally told the company they will go on strike this month. Workers cite a lack of adequate staffing — which they say has reached crisis levels.
The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals union will be putting in a ten-day notice with Kaiser on behalf of the employees that says unless conditions improve, the strike will begin at 6 a.m. on Nov. 15.
The 3,400 nurses and employees represented by the OFNHP voted to authorize a strike less than a month ago. The participation rate was a staggering 90% — with 96% of those participants voting yes.
Officials said it was an unprecedented authorization.
“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,” Kaiser RN and President of the OFNHP Jodi Barschow said. “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.”
This is part of a national strike against Kaiser Permanente that would account for a whopping 32,000 workers.
In response to the news of the impending strike, Kaiser Permanente issued a statement saying the company remains “committed to working together with labor for the benefit of our workforce, members and the communities that rely on us.”
“The challenge we are trying to address in partnership with our unions is the increasingly unaffordable cost of health care,” the statement read in part. “The fact is, wages and benefits account for half of Kaiser Permanente’s operational costs.”
Kaiser claims that in some regions, union employees make 26-38% above the market average wage. On Nov. 2, Kaiser says they offered Alliance of Health Care Unions leaders an updated proposal that provides Alliance-represented employees as much as 4% a year in pay increases.
”We are asking our labor partners to work with us to address this very real problem through an interest-based process, just as we have done with other challenges over the course of our partnership.”
In the event of a strike, Kaiser says they will keep their hospitals open and continue to care for their members and patients.
“We will inform our members of any service changes,” Kaiser said. “This could include rescheduling some appointments and surgeries.”