By Don McIntosh
The votes leave no question: Workers at Kaiser Permanente are ready to strike. Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP) announced Oct. 11 that 90% of its 3,400 Kaiser members voted and 96% of them authorized a strike. The same day, United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and United Steelworkers Local 7600 announced that they too voted to authorize a strike, which would involve 31,000 Kaiser workers in Southern California.
The three unions are part of a 50,000-worker, 21-union coalition, the Alliance of Health Care Unions. They say everything they’ve fought for for decades is at stake. Kaiser is pushing a “two-tier” scheme to cut pay for new hires, and offering below-inflation raises of 1% at a time of massive burnout among health care workers and a growing and severe labor shortage. In a recent OFNHP nurse survey, 60% said they were considering leaving Kaiser.
Gladstoned-headquartered Operating Engineers Local 701, which represents 103 stationary engineers at Kaiser, isn’t part of the coalition, but its contract, extended twice, expired Sept. 15. And about 700 members of Operating Engineers Local 39 have been on strike in San Francisco since Sept. 18.
Under federal law, health care workers must give 10-day notice before striking.