More than 75,000 frontline Kaiser Permanente workers remain prepared to begin a three-day strike Wednesday, despite negotiators for the health system and its unions meeting at the bargaining table Monday.
A strike would be the largest in healthcare history, with one-fourth of Kaiser Permanente’s employees planning to walk off the job from 6 a.m. PST Wednesday until 6 a.m. PST Saturday. The workers are represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.
Another bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The contract expired Sept. 30. Bargaining began in April.
If no agreement is reached after a three-day strike, union members are prepared to strike again for a longer period of time in November, said Renée Saldaña, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, one of 11 union groups in the coalition.
Pay remains a key sticking point. The unions have demanded a universal $25 per hour minimum wage. Kaiser Permanente offered minimum wages that varied by region, ranging from $21 to $25 an hour. The coalition also seeks a 26.5% wage increase over four years while the health system proposes increases of up to 14%.
A strike would disrupt patient care across the health system’s 39 hospitals and 622 medical offices spanning California, Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington.
Most of Kaiser Permanente’s patients rely on its outpatient care settings, which is where the bulk of the striking workers are employed, said John August, director of healthcare and partner programs at Cornell University’s Scheinman Institute. August is the former head of the coalition.
Employees and roles that would be affected by a strike include licensed vocational nurses, emergency department technicians, ultrasound sonographers, respiratory therapists, certified nursing assistants, dietary service workers, pharmacy technicians, transporters, home health aides and phlebotomists.
Kaiser Permanente has said it plans to mitigate the effects of any strike by bringing in contract workers, deferring patients to other healthcare facilities and having managers pick up shifts.