PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Around 75,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers across the United States, including Oregon and Washington, are set to strike for 3 days, marking the largest healthcare worker strike in history.
If a deal isn’t met overnight, tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers across the country will go on strike.
“We have the right to use our voices for our patients and our members and we’re going to use it,” Juanita Kamhoot, a certified nursing assistant at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center, said. “We have been here for our community, we have been here for our patients.”
The strike comes after what the union is calling bad faith bargaining that is impeding progress towards solutions to short-staffing issues.
“Frontline healthcare workers see patient care in crisis every day. We know that the crisis cannot be solved unless Kaiser executives follow the law and take dramatic action now to solve the crisis by investing in its workforce,” said Megan Mayes, Patient Access Representative, Westside Medical Center, Hillsboro, Oregon. “We’re prepared to take action to solve the Kaiser short-staffing crisis and to keep our patients safe.”
There will be strike lines set up at several locations around Oregon and Southwest Washington, and hundreds across the country.
“Folks are fed up. They’re trying to fight for what’s right, very clearly. These workers want to take care of patients but in order to do that, Kaiser has to take care of them. Their wages are below market and they don’t need to be,” Miles Eshaia with UFCW Local 555 said. “We are separate entities. We are going to be there for them, they’re going to be here for us. It is time that Kaiser do what’s right by their employees so they can get back to taking care of patients.”
Starting Oct. 4 at 6 a.m., strikes will begin at the main strike hub, Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas and more strikes will begin at 7 a.m. at Cascade Park Medical Offices in Vancouver, North Lancaster Medical Offices in Salem and Kaiser Permanente Longview-Kelso Medical Office in Longview.
Workers claim that Kaiser is committing unfair labor practices, and understaffing their locations to boost profits.
“We can’t help them. We can’t give them 100%,” Kamhoot said. “(For) 25 years, I’ve worked for Kaiser Permanente, and the Kaiser executives today don’t care. It shows.”
According to a survey of 33,000 employees, two-thirds said they have seen care delayed or fully denied due to the short staffing.
Kaiser Permanente released a statement regarding the ongoing bargaining process Tuesday night, saying:
“Bargaining between Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is ongoing, and several agreements over specific provisions have been reached. Our team is available 24/7 to continue bargaining with the Coalition until we reach a fair and equitable agreement. We remain optimistic that there is still time to find agreement before any of the work stoppages called by the Coalition unions begin at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.“