- Eligible Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers in California will have until Sunday to cast their vote in authorizing a strike. If passed, the stoppage would not begin immediately. The vote gives the bargaining team the power to call a strike. The earliest the strike could begin would be Oct. 21 because healthcare unions are required to give facilities a 10-day notice in writing before striking.
- As many as 24,000 workers could walk off the job, dealing a potentially huge blow to Kaiser Permanente operations in southern California. Officials with the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals said they represent the vast majority of Kaiser's registered nurses in southern California and all of Kaiser's physician assistants, pharmacists, midwives, physical and occupational therapists and optometrists.
- Union officials said they have every indication members will vote to authorize a strike and 80% of eligble voters had cast ballots as of Thursday morning. If a stoppage is called, it would be the largest in the U.S. so far this year, by number of workers.
Relations have soured between administration and clinicians in many facilities across the country as healthcare workers report feeling burned out due to the pandemic and further exhausted by ongoing staffing shortages.
Nurses have been on strike for seven months as of Friday at a Tenet hospital in Worcester, Massachussets, one hour west of Boston. And in Buffalo, New York, more than 2,000 nurses and workers from Catholic Health System's Mercy Hospital have been on strike for about a week over disputes about safe staffing levels.
And it's just not healthcare workers, just this week 1,400 workers walked out of Kellogg's cereal plants in the U.S.
There have been eight major work stoppages initiated this year as of August, per the latest figures available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were that many major work stoppages in all of 2020, so it's almost certain the number of stoppages in 2021 will exceed last year, which was the third lowest on record since 1947, according to BLS.
|Employer||Work stoppage start date||Work stoppage end date||No. of workers|
|Hunts Point Produce Market||Jan. 17||Jan. 23||1,400|
|Columbia University||March 15||May 13||3,000|
|Allegheny Technologies||March 30||July 13||1,300|
|Warrior Met Coal||April 1||1,100|
|Volvo Trucks North America||April 17||July 14||2,900|
|New York University||April 26||May 15||2,200|
|Cook County, Illinois||May 25||July 12||2,000|
|Nabisco||Aug. 23||Sept. 18*||1,000|
|*per The New York Times|
Still, work stoppages have declined dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s, according to BLS.
If the 24,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in California do eventually strike, it's poised to be the largest strike by number of workers this year.
In a statement, Kaiser said it's proud to be one of the most unionized healthcare organizations in the country, and said it has continued working toward reaching an agreement after the recent contract expired. The system said it's committed to "resolving this quickly" to reach a contract both parties can agree on.
"We understand that some union leaders are now calling for a strike authorization vote, even though our members and communities are continuing to face the challenges of the ongoing pandemic," Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at the system, said in the statement. "We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them," Peasnall added.
Kaiser said it will lean on physicians, managers and contingency staff if a work stoppage does occur.
Voting to authorize the strike started after Kaiser Permanente and the union representing the clinicians failed to reach a bargaining agreement, causing the contracts to expire at the end of September.
A strike of 24,000 workers could cripple operations for Kaiser in southern California. Those workers poised to strike would represent about 31% of Kaiser's nearly 76,000 employees in southern California where the system operates 14 hospitals and more than 200 clinics.
For full-year 2020, Kaiser Permanente reported revenue rose 5% to $88.72 billion and net income dropped 15% to $6.35 billion compared with the year prior.
For the first six months of 2021, Kaiser Permanente reported revenue climbed 5% to $46.87 billion and net income soared 47% to $5 billion compared with the year prior.