PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers in Oregon and Washington are starting to vote this week on whether to give their union at the bargaining table the OK to threaten to strike.
About 4,500 Kaiser workers in Oregon and Washington are voting now through August 23 on approving a strike.
Members of the Service Employees International Union accuse Kaiser of unfair labor practices. One of their big issues is adequate staffing.
The union represents hundreds of positions, from CNAs to dental assistants and staff who answer calls.
Kaiser calls a strike authorization vote counterproductive. In a statement, Kaiser said “KPNW is growing and adding jobs. Since 2015 in the Northwest region, Kaiser Permanente has increased the total number of SEIU Local 49 jobs by 13%”
The earliest a strike could happen at Kaiser is October since the current contract runs until the end of September.
This comes after workers at Oregon Health and Science University are also set to take a strike vote.
A strike authorization vote is scheduled for next week at OHSU. Nearly half of their employees are in AFSCME Local 328, which represents about 7,000 workers including pharmacists and radiology technicians but not doctors and nurses.
OHSU union negotiation is at an impasse over wages and benefits including a new paid time off system. Union members have been working without a contract since June.
Union workers from both hospital groups will hold informational pickets on Thursday afternoon.
“The decision by SEIU leadership to push for a strike authorization vote is counterproductive and designed to put pressure on the contract bargaining process. The bargaining table is the place to work through an agreement.
KPNW is growing and adding jobs. Since 2015 in the Northwest Region KP has increased the total number of SEIU Local 49 jobs by 13% to approximately 4,400 SEIU represented KPNW employees.
On average, SEIU Local 49 represented employees are paid 26% higher than our local competitors.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing our staff with market leading compensation while also fulfilling our mission to make health care more affordable. Our current proposal includes increases of 3% across the board beginning in 2019 — and each year through 2022. This is achieved through a 2% increase in base pay, combined with a 1% lump sum payment each year.
Kaiser Permanente Northwest is growing and we are adding more jobs. SEIU Local 49 represented staff has increased 13% since 2015.”