Biggest ever Kaiser strike starts with pharmacy workers


About 500 Kaiser Permanente pharmacy workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington began a 20-day unfair labor practice strike Oct. 1, and another 75,000 Kaiser workers across five states and Washington, D.C., began their own three-day strike Oct. 4.

Photo by Mallory Gruben

The pharmacy workers are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555. Local 555 also represents about 500 other workers at Kaiser who are not striking. Local 555 says Kaiser has committed several unfair labor practices against the pharmacy staff, including hiring non-represented workers to do jobs covered by the union, unilaterally changing schedules, and going over union stewards’ heads to bargain with workers directly.

The pharmacy workers are set to strike through Oct. 21, though they could return to work sooner if they reach a contract agreement with Kaiser.

At the Kaiser Home Infusion Pharmacy at 5717 NE 138th Ave., about 30 workers picketed in small groups on the first day of the strike. Kaiser put up fencing around the building and hired a security company, although most the guards seemed friendly toward the strikers.

Strikers referred questions to Local 555 spokesperson Miles Eshaia. Eshaia said he didn’t know why Kaiser put up fences.

“This group is not going to be trying to get inside.”

Eshaia said Kaiser brought in “agency workers” to temporarily replace union members.

Members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente unions in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Washington D.C. began a three-day strike Wednesday, Oct. 4, to protest bad faith bargaining.

At a time when Kaiser made $3 billion in profit in the first six months of this year, it’s offering annual raises of 2% to 4%, the Coalition said. It also proposes to eliminate protections against subcontracting and outsourcing.

Portland-based SEIU Local 49, representing about 4,500 technicians and hospital support staff at Kaiser facilities in Oregon, is one of the striking unions.

The coalition and Kaiser have been bargaining since April. The unions want a contract that provides better staffing and pay raises that keep up with inflation.

Local 555’s 20-day walkout would overlap with the three-day coalition strike.

CORRECTION: The Local 555 workers on strike are pharmacy techs and other pharmacy support workers. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the headline and excerpt that they were pharmacists.


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