Oct 4, 2023 - News

Thousands of Kaiser health care workers strike in San Diego

Kaiser workers at a rally in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers are striking at hospitals and medical offices in San Diego and across the country Wednesday morning.

What's happening: Kaiser and a coalition of unions representing its workers have failed to reach a deal to renew a contract that expired Sept. 30.

Why it matters: The three-day protest of roughly 75,000 workers across hundreds of Kaiser medical facilities is the largest health care strike in U.S. history, according to the unions.

Zoom in: In San Diego, the workers' strike started at 6am at Kaiser's Zion Medical Center, San Diego Medical Center, and medical offices in La Mesa, San Marcos and Otay Mesa.

  • The nearly 4,500 local employees include nurses, radiology and X-ray technicians, ultrasound sonographers, housekeepers and hundreds of other positions.
  • Thousands of replacement workers arrived at San Diego-area hotels this week to step in for protesters, which do not include registered nurses and doctors, the Union-Tribune reported.
  • Local hospitals, emergency departments, pharmacies and urgent cares will remain open, according to Kaiser.

Zoom out: Strike lines are set up at Kaiser medical facilities across California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The big picture: Since the pandemic, the health care industry has struggled with labor shortages and worker burnout — and unrest has grown.

  • Last year, about 15,000 nurses went on strike for three days in Minnesota in what was believed to be the largest nursing strike in U.S. history.

State of play: The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions has 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.

  • Meanwhile, Kaiser argues it pays staff above market levels in Southern California and is aggressively recruiting to fill more positions.
  • The organization has already reached a deal with the union coalition to hire 10,000 new employees by the end of October.

Of note: Kaiser notified its members of the potential strike, and patients will be contacted by Kaiser directly if they need to do virtual or reschedule non-urgent appointments and procedures.

What to watch: The strike is set to end Saturday at 6am, and contract negotiations are ongoing.

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