Oct 4, 2023 - News

4,000 Kaiser health care workers in Oregon go on strike

A group of people walking down the street all holding protest signs.

Kaiser workers march in Los Angeles, Calif. in September. Photo: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers were striking at hospitals and medical office buildings across Oregon and southwest Washington as of Wednesday morning.

What's happening: Kaiser and a coalition of local unions representing its workers haven't reached a deal for a new contract that expired Sept. 30.

  • Union leaders told Axios they're fighting for more staffing and higher annual pay raises, arguing their wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living and inflation.

Why it matters: The three-day strike of about 75,000 workers nationwide is among one of the largest health care strikes in U.S. history, according to the unions.

Zoom in: In Oregon and Washington, the workers' strike started at 6am at Kaiser's Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas, North Lancaster Medical Offices in Salem, Cascade Park Medical Offices in Vancouver, Wash. and Kaiser Permanente Longview-Kelso Medical Office.

  • The 4,000 striking employees include licensed vocational nurses, surgical technicians, medical assistants, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, schedulers and housekeepers.

Zoom out: Tonia Held, an ophthalmic technician and bargaining member of SEIU Local 49 said union members will likely be picketing across 65 Kaiser locations in the Pacific Northwest.

State of play: The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions criticized the health care giant for low pay and chronic understaffing that's led to long wait times for appointments and delays in patient care services.

  • In its statement to Axios, Kaiser said it's aggressively recruiting to fill more positions. The company already reached a deal with the union coalition to hire 10,000 new employees by the end of October and said it expects to reach that mark.

What we're watching: The strike is set to end Saturday morning, while contract negotiations with management are ongoing.

The intrigue: Nearly 400 Kaiser pharmacy technicians, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, are also on strike.

  • The technicians started a 21-day strike Sunday and are picketing daily at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas and Kaiser Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro.

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