By DON McINTOSH
Close to 900 Kaiser Permanente pharmacy and imaging department workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington ended their strike Nov. 18 and returned to work without new contracts. The workers are represented by Tigard-based United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555. The strike began Oct. 1 with about 370 pharmacy technicians and clerks. They stayed out on strike until Oct. 21, then went back out on strike again Oct. 23. About 500 imaging technologists joined them on strike Nov. 1. Under federal law, unions have to give at least 10 days notice before striking or picketing at any health care institution.
Local 555 has been proposing wage increases totaling 42% over four years, plus increased wage differentials for working nights and weekends, and increased staffing.
Local 555 initially was bargaining as part of the 85,000-strong Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU), but withdrew from the coalition in September. After nearly 75,000 members of CKPU unions struck Oct. 4-6 — the largest-ever health care strike in the United States — Kaiser agreed to new contracts providing 21% raises over four years. That settlement includes 4,140 members of Portland-based SEIU Local 49.
Local 555 members may be back to work at Kaiser for now, but the union is still seeking to put pressure on the company by encouraging patients to drop Kaiser. “Your health care could be at risk with Kaiser Permanente” says DropKP.org, a website the union created Oct. 18. The site points out that Kaiser’s Medicare Advantage rating dropped this year to 3.5 stars. Based on quality measures, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rates health plans annually on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.
12/1/23 CORRECTION: Drawing on erroneous information from a federal government form, an earlier version of this article reported incorrectly the number of SEIU Local 49 members at Kaiser.