Kaiser Permanente labor leaders said they tentatively agreed to a new contract with management, heading off a second wave of record strikes over pay and staffing levels.
(Bloomberg) — Kaiser Permanente labor leaders said they tentatively agreed to a new contract with management, heading off a second wave of record strikes over pay and staffing levels.
Leaders of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced the agreement in a post on the X app, thanking Acting US Labor Secretary Julie Su.
Kaiser Permanente has 12.7 million members across eight states and Washington, DC, though its presence is mainly concentrated in the West. Unlike traditional insurers, the health-care consortium operates hospitals and clinics in addition to providing coverage. The unions have said that chronic worker shortages dating back to the pandemic have created unsafe conditions for patients and caused widespread burnout.
The unions went on a three-day strike on Oct. 4 over filed complaints to the federal labor board, alleging that Kaiser management refused to negotiate fairly with union leaders over the staffing shortage. The 75,000-member strike was the largest ever for the US health-care industry by at least 20,000 workers, according to Bloomberg Law’s database of work stoppages dating to 1990.
Kaiser has maintained that it addressed the shortage by hiring 50,000 new workers over the last two years.
Strike lines formed at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical office buildings across the country, starting with a small number of workers in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., followed by larger populations in California, Oregon, and Washington state.
The second planned strike for Nov. 1 would have once again interrupted nonessential services carried out by support staff, including radiological scans, medication orders, and dental and eye exams.
The Kaiser strike was the latest in a string of high-profile labor disputes fueled by a tight labor market, high inflation, and record corporate profits. Workers have engaged in more than 300 strikes so far in 2023, according to data from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. There were 414 strikes in all of 2022.
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