During bargaining Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions holding nationwide protests this week

Kaiser says pickets, actions at hospitals July 24-29 aren’t strikes, facilities remain open

By Allen D. Payton

The 85,000-member Coalition of Kaiser Permanent Unions is holding nationwide pickets and actions at Kaiser hospitals and facilities, this week, July 24-29 to protest staffing shortage and wages, less than three months from their contract expiration on September 30. The two sides are in the midst of bargaining and the next session is scheduled for Tuesday, August 1. The one-day protest at the Kaiser Medical Center in Antioch was held yesterday.

The Coalition unites 85,000 members of four international unions at Kaiser hospitals, clinics, and facilities throughout the United States.

In a July 13, 2023 post on their website labeled “Bargaining Update 4”, the coalition claims, “At bargaining this week, the ‘non-profit’ that pays its CEO $16 million a year gave a clear message to the EVS (environmental services) worker raising a family on $48K a year in LA: ‘You make too much money.’

It’s unbelievable. Kaiser pays 49 executives more than a million dollars a year, but they think a PCT (patient care technician) earning $52K a year in Portland is making Kaiser unaffordable. The corporation that has over $113 billion in investments – including questionable ventures around the world – believes they are paying healthcare workers $450 million a year too much in wages that are ‘over market.’

We will be submitting a full economic proposal – including wages – at our next bargaining session on August 1, but the fault lines in negotiations are becoming more and more clear: our Coalition spoke about how we are falling behind, struggling to afford living where we work, and losing ground to rising costs. Kaiser spoke about outsourcing more of our work to low wage, for-profit companies – undermining middle class jobs.”

The unions have offered a list of concerns and demands:

  • We want Kaiser to grow as a union company with leading wages, benefits, and quality care. Instead, Kaiser is spending $5 billion of our patients’ premiums to launch a non-union, non-partnership company that will lower labor standards.
  • We want a guaranteed PSP payout we can count on when we reach our goals. Kaiser is still defending their shameful decision to deny frontline caregivers our PSP while paying big bonuses to managers.
  • We want Kaiser to make meaningful investments in solving the staffing shortage: increase training funds, eliminate barriers to promotion, justify unposted vacancies, create paid externships, provide referral/ retention and recruitment bonuses, and dial back wasteful registry spending.

The coalition further claims, “It’s clear that the only way that we will get Kaiser to listen to us is to make some noise.”

Kaiser Responds: Not Strikes, Hospitals & Facilities Remain Open

Kaiser Permanent responded with a statement that the events are not strikes and their facilities remain open.

Following is the complete Statement from Kaiser Permanente on Coalition picketing July 24 to 29:

“It’s important for our members and patients to know that these events are not strikes. Our medical facilities will remain open and operate normally.

Kaiser Permanente is the largest union-represented health care employer in the U.S. — with nearly 75% of our employees represented by unions. We are currently bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents about 88,000 employees in a variety of roles and is part of our historic Labor Management Partnership.

Our priority is to reach an agreement that ensures we can continue to provide market-competitive pay and outstanding benefits. We are confident we’ll be able to reach an agreement that strengthens our position as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.

Given where we are in the bargaining process, it’s clear the picketing by the Coalition isn’t about drawing attention to new issues, but rather an attempt to create bargaining leverage.

We have been and will continue to address the real issues that are affecting health care and our employees. On the heels of the global pandemic and given today’s economy, these challenges include inflation and rising costs to deliver health care, increasing competition from nontraditional businesses, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and increases in the demand for access to health care. We look to the Coalition to be a constructive partner in helping address these and other challenges affecting us all.


The staffing challenges mentioned by the Coalition have been happening all across health care but are actually less true at Kaiser Permanente now than elsewhere.

It’s worth remembering that during the pandemic, we took extraordinary steps to support and protect our workforce. This included providing $800 million in employee assistance to ensure that front-line employees had access to alternate housing options, special child care grants, and additional paid leave for COVID-19 illness and exposure.

The average employee turnover rate across health care is 21.4% (Source: PwC Saratoga 2022 Survey). While it crept up a bit during the height of the pandemic, we are thankful that our current rate of 8.5% as of June 2023 is significantly lower than the rest of health care.

At the beginning of bargaining in April, Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition agreed to a joint goal of hiring 10,000 new people for Coalition-represented jobs in 2023. We are making great progress toward achieving that goal.

Talented people want to work at Kaiser Permanente, which is why 96% of candidates accept our employment offers, which is 5.3% above the U.S. health care industry average (Source: PwC Saratoga 2022 Survey).

Our staffing approach reflects our shared commitment to ensure every Kaiser Permanente patient receives extraordinary care, every time and in every place.

Wages and Benefits

We are one of the leaders in employee wages and benefits in every market we’re in. We offer employees market-competitive pay and outstanding benefits, opportunities to learn new skills and grow their careers, and we’re committed to providing a safe and equitable work environment. We also want to ensure that we help our employees build long-term economic security with low-cost health insurance, industry-leading retirement plans, and other benefit programs to support their health and well-being.

We have discussed with the Coalition that in some regions Kaiser Permanente is paying Coalition-represented employees up to 28% above the market average wage rates — impacting our overall costs and ability to attract new members. In other regions, we are paying at or slightly above the market average, which hurts our ability to attract new employees and retain the excellent employees we already have.

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our union partners in bargaining. We will reach a great agreement. To get there, we all need to be responsible stewards of our members’ and customers’ needs and resources and be mindful of the rising costs of health care and our collective role in addressing it.”

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