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Kaiser strike enters third day and union members say they'll strike again if no deal is reached

Thousands return to the picket lines in the third day of a planned three-day Kaiser strike
Thousands return to the picket lines in the third day of a planned three-day Kaiser strike 02:05

It's day three of a planned three-day strike for Kaiser Permanente union members and they say they'll be back longer and stronger if a deal isn't reached.

Kaiser put out a statement Friday morning saying they are "committed to reaching an agreement that is good for our employees, our members, and our organization, and we will continue to bargain in good faith with our Coalition partners."

The healthcare company also addressed the immediate effects of the strike on patients, saying they worked to minimize disruptions to members during the strike.

"We are fortunate that most procedures were not delayed or deferred, most routine surgeries were not rescheduled and our ambulatory appointment access has been close to normal, in part because we expanded access just prior to the visit and converted many appointments to phone and video," wrote Kaiser in Friday's statement. 

In East Hollywood, picketers were out early, before sunrise Friday, wanting to continue to bring attention to the problems they see within Kaiser Permanente centers. Strikers, frustrated and feeling underappreciated, carried signs that read "Respect and Value: Healthcare Workers" and "Kaiser: Put Patients First."

The call for change comes in terms of increased pay and staffing levels. Kaiser has offered California workers $23 an hour minimum wage, but workers want a $25 per hour minimum. Strikers say patients are also suffering because there isn't enough staff to help them, Kaiser says they've hired 10,000 new workers to help with staffing levels.

"Kaiser likes to put out that statement that they've hired 10,000 new workers, but that doesn't account for the high turnover rate that's been going on now since the pandemic,  that we've never really recovered from," said Angelica Mateo, Kaiser LVN.

The workers' contract expired Saturday, but bargaining continued over the weekend and again Monday, Tuesday and through the night into Wednesday.

According to the union coalition, no new bargaining sessions have been scheduled as of Thursday morning, and they will be prepared to strike again in November if a deal isn't reached.

An estimated 75,000 Kaiser workers were taking part in the strike with picketing happening in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Aside from demands for higher wages to match inflation and increased staffing, the unions have also accused Kaiser of bad-faith negotiating, an allegation Kaiser has denied.

The union also says Kaiser has cut performance bonuses for employees, and fails to protect employees against subcontracting,  issues that Kaiser has refuted.

"Healthcare workers within the coalition remain ready to meet at any time. Currently, the strike continues, and there are no sessions scheduled at this hour," said Caroline Lucas of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

Kaiser officials said the marathon bargaining sessions did result in a "number of tentative agreements," and they insisted the healthcare system's latest offers address the union's demands. Kaiser officials said the company is offering:

  •   "across-the-board" wage increases in all markets over four years
  •    an improved Performance Sharing Plan with the potential for payouts of up to $3,750;
  •    minimum wages of $23 an hour in California and $21 an hour in other markets
  •    renewal of tuition assistance and training programs.

The company also affirmed its commitment to hiring, confirming that it has already reached a goal of hiring 10,000 new union-represented employees before the end of the year.

"In total over the past two years, Kaiser Permanente has hired more than 50,000 people to join our teams," according to the company.

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