NewsCovering Kern County


Kaiser Permanente bracing for union strike

Posted at 7:04 AM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 12:19:23-05

(KERO) — Kaiser Permanente is preparing for a strike that could see thousands of employees walk off the job starting next week.

The union which represents nurses and other healthcare workers has sent a notice that employees will strike starting on Monday.

Negotiations between the union and Kaiser have been going on since April.

Kaiser sent out an email to customers describing the potential impact a strike would have on services.

The healthcare provider says they plan on keeping hospitals and emergency departments open although they are coordinating with community hospitals to help.

Some appointments have been changed to virtual visits while other non-essential appointments and non-elective surgeries have been canceled or rescheduled.

Pharmacies will also close during the strike.

Kaiser did provide 23ABC with a statement saying officials have been meeting regularly with the union and believe that an agreement could be reached before Monday.

Here's the full statement from Kaiser:

Kaiser Permanente is indisputably one of the most labor-friendly organizations in the United States. Our history and our future are deeply connected to organized labor. Labor unions have always played an important role in our efforts to provide more people with access to high-quality care and to make care more affordable. We have been engaged in national bargaining with the Alliance of Health Care Unions since April and have made progress in many important areas, reaching tentative agreements on the funding of a workforce development trust and several sub-committee recommendations. We have been meeting regularly since late September and believe an agreement that meets the interests of all is very possible. The challenge we are trying to address in partnership with our unions is the increasingly unaffordable cost of health care. And the fact is, wages and benefits account for half of Kaiser Permanente’s operational costs. Over the course of our 24 years of labor partnership, we, labor and management, have negotiated wages and benefits primarily at a national level, so pay has not always been matched to the markets where we operate. As a result, over time in many areas our wage rates have grown to the point where our union represented employees earn about 26% above the average market wage, and in some places it’s 38% above market. These numbers don’t include the value of our industry-leading benefits and retirement and pension plans along with the opportunity to earn an additional 3% bonus every year, based on our performance. 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. On November 2, Kaiser Permanente offered Alliance leaders an updated economic proposal that provides Alliance-represented employees as much as 4% a year in pay increases, with no takeaways to the market-leading benefits and retirement programs. The proposed wage increases are on top of the already market-leading pay and benefits our employees receive, as confirmed by independent wage surveys and the government’s own data compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Our proposal simply aims to slow the significant over-market growth in compensation while continuing to reward our employees and fulfill our commitment to our members and patients to provide high-quality, affordable health care. We remain committed to working together with labor for the benefit of our workforce, members and the communities that rely on us. We believe we can reach an agreement with the Alliance that meets our shared interests and avoids an unnecessary and harmful strike, especially as we continue to battle this pandemic. If a strike actually occurs, our facilities will be staffed by our trained and experienced managers and the contingency staff we are bringing in as needed, and our physicians will continue to be available to care for patients.
Arlene Peasnall, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Kaiser Permanente

This is a developing story and will updated as new information becomes available.