Over 75,000 union workers at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare providers in the U.S., recently staged a three-day strike to protest against unfair labor practices and unsafe staffing levels. The strike, which took place last week, marked the largest ever in the healthcare sector.
The union workers were also demanding pay raises and protections against outsourcing. Despite their efforts, no contract agreement was reached, and the employees returned to work on Saturday. However, the union has warned that a “longer, stronger” strike may take place in November if their concerns are not addressed.
Future contract talks are scheduled to resume on Thursday, and they will be joined by Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. The involvement of the Labor Department underscores the significance of these negotiations.
Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, California, serves a vast membership of 12.7 million individuals and operates a network of 39 hospitals and 622 medical offices. With a workforce of over 212,000 employees, the healthcare provider holds a position of influence in the industry.
In response to the strike, Kaiser Permanente presented its current offer to the workers. The offer includes guaranteed wage increases ranging from 12.5% to 16% over four years and sets a minimum wage of $21 in certain states starting in 2024. In California, the minimum wage would be raised to $23 in the same year.
It is worth noting that this strike follows recent walkouts by Hollywood writers, which concluded last week, and ongoing actions by the United Auto Workers against major automotive companies such as Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis (STLA).
On a positive note, the UAW announced that GM has agreed to incorporate battery production work into the master agreement that governs UAW workers at the auto manufacturer. As a result, UAW President Shawn Fain stated that there would be no escalation of strike activity at GM due to the progress made in negotiations. Additionally, neither Ford nor Stellantis plants faced any expanded strike action.
While these labor disputes continue, it remains to be seen how they will ultimately impact the respective industries and the workers involved.