Labor’s next big fight in the Bay Area: Largest single-employer union negotiation in the U.S. inches closer to strike

85,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers to hold strike authorization vote Monday over what they claim are unfair labor practices, say chronic under-staffing is driving a growing patient care crisis

By Renée Saldaña, Press Secretary, SEUI – United Healthcare Workers West

A strike may be looming at one of the nation’s largest employers.

On Monday August 28, Kaiser workers in California, including Antioch, will start to vote to authorize a strike over unfair labor practices. The voting ends September 12th.   The unions will strike dates soon after we get the results of the vote. The contract expires for a large bulk of the Kaiser workers in the coalition (58,000) on September 30th, so a strike could potentially start as early as October 1.

We are expecting a majority of the workers to vote in favor of a strike. We will keep you posted on any other developments.

On Thursday, August 24, healthcare workers employed by Kaiser Permanente announced details of a potential strike authorization vote at a hybrid in-person and virtual press conference.

Following the UPS labor settlement with the Teamsters, the labor negotiations covering 85,000 Kaiser healthcare workers – represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions – have now become the largest single-employer labor negotiations occurring in the United States. The Coalition unites healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington.

At issue, healthcare workers say, are a series of unfair labor practices related to contract bargaining, along with simmering staff concerns related to unsafe staffing levels that can lead to dangerously long wait times, mistaken diagnosis, and neglect.

If Kaiser executives don’t take swift action to rectify the unfair labor practices that detailed at the press conference, workers say they’ll have no choice but to strike. Workers also say the company needs to immediately and substantively address the growing care crisis at its hospitals and clinics.

Barring a breakthrough in the ongoing negotiations including a resolution of the unfair labor practices in question, the healthcare workers announced the strike authorization vote date and plans.

“Kaiser cannot keep bargaining in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices. Kaiser is facing chronic under-staffing because workers can’t afford to live in LA on the low wages they pay us,” said Miriam de la Paz, a unit secretary at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, California. “If Kaiser’s millionaire executives won’t work with us on a plan to hire more people so we can give every patient the attention they deserve, we’re prepared to vote for an unfair labor practice strike.”

“We want Kaiser to stop committing unfair labor practices, and bargain in good faith. It’s heartbreaking to see our patients suffer from long wait times for the care they need, all because Kaiser won’t put patient and worker safety first,” said Paula Coleman, a clinical laboratory assistant at Kaiser Permanente in Englewood, Colorado. “We will have no choice but to vote to strike if Kaiser won’t let us give patients the quality care they deserve.”

“Our patients expect more from a healthcare system that reported $3 billion in profits in the first half of this year alone, and so do we,” said Nahid Bokaee, a Pharmacist in Sterling, Virginia. “Kaiser can afford to end this dangerous understaffing, but they choose not to. For the sake of our patients and our colleagues, we’re prepared to authorize a strike because Kaiser cannot keep bargaining in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices.”


The Kaiser healthcare workers are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents more than 85,000 healthcare workers in seven states and the District of Columbia. In April, the Coalition began its national bargaining process. The Coalition and Kaiser Permanente last negotiated a contract in 2019, before healthcare workers found themselves on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic that has worsened working conditions and exacerbated a healthcare staffing crisis.

Tensions have been rising as the workers’ contract expiration looms. Earlier this month tens of thousands of healthcare workers picketed Kaiser hospitals across the U.S. to protest the company’s growing care crisis.

Workers say that Kaiser is committing unfair labor practices and also that under-staffing is boosting Kaiser’s profits but hurting patients. In a recent survey of 33,000 employees, two-thirds of workers said they’d seen care delayed or denied due to short staffing. After three years of the COVID pandemic and chronic understaffing, healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente are calling on management to provide safe staffing levels.

Even as some frontline healthcare heroes live in their cars and patients wait longer for care, Kaiser released new financials this month indicating they made ​​$3 billion in profit in just the first six months of this year. Despite being a non-profit organization – which means it pays no income taxes on its earnings and extremely limited property taxes – Kaiser has reported more than $24 billion in profit over the last five years. Kaiser’s CEO was compensated more than $16 million in 2021, and forty-nine executives at Kaiser are compensated more than $1 million annually. Kaiser Permanente has investments of $113 billion in the US and abroad, including in fossil fuels, casinos, for-profit prisons, alcohol companies, military weapons and more.

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