The biggest healthcare worker strike in the nation’s history technically only lasted three days, but resulted in a 21% wage increase for pandemic-frazzled employees of the Oakland-based healthcare conglomerate Kaiser Permanente.
It was last Wednesday when Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers went on strike in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. And it was only a three-day strike. But it apparently did enough to disrupt the Kaiser network’s appointments, procedures, and lab work that it forced the healthcare giant to the bargaining table.
And now the Chronicle reports that Friday morning, Kaiser and its workers’ unions announced a tentative labor deal, which would raise worker wages, and curtail Kaiser’s subcontracting and outsourcing.
✨BREAKING NEWS: Victory for Frontline Kaiser Healthcare Workers! ✨— SEIU (@SEIU) October 13, 2023
After the largest healthcare strike in U.S. history, we have a game-changing TENTATIVE AGREEMENT! 💥
This is a monumental step towards fixing the Kaiser short staffing crisis and ELEVATING the wages of… pic.twitter.com/CTtWz7UB8R
Workers say they’ve been overworked, underpaid, and burnt out during the pandemic, claiming Kaiser facilities have been short-staffed and overly reliant on non-union subcontractors. The new labor deal established a new Kaiser minimum wage of $25 in California ($23 in the other states), an across-the-board wage increase of 21% phased in over four years, and increased investments in hiring and training.
“Millions of Americans are safer today because tens of thousands of dedicated health care workers fought for and won the critical resources they need and that patients need,” Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions director Caroline Lucas said in a statement. “This historic agreement will set a higher standard for the health care industry nationwide.”
We are excited to have reached a tentative agreement with the frontline health care workers of the @UnionCoalition this morning. We are thankful for the instrumental involvement of Acting U.S. Labor Secretary @ActSecJulieSu .— Kaiser Permanente (@aboutKP) October 13, 2023
A full announcement will follow shortly. pic.twitter.com/MGzFnrHdFA
For their part, Kaiser is being gracious, saying in a Friday statement on Twitter that, “We are excited to have reached a tentative agreement with the frontline health care workers of the @UnionCoalition this morning. We are thankful for the instrumental involvement of Acting U.S. Labor Secretary @ActSecJulieSu.”
According to the New York Times, the various unions representing Kaiser lab technicians, medical assistants, receptionists, and sanitation workers had threatened another week-long strike in November if they didn’t get a new contract to their liking. Those unions represent around 75,000 employees in eight different states.
White House issues statement on tentative deal between Kaiser Permanente and employee unions.— Ian Cull (@NBCian) October 13, 2023
75k workers walked off the job last week, including 37k in Northern California for a 3-day strike. pic.twitter.com/j0Kc6tJj4D
It’s a big win for acting Department of Labor Secretary Julie Su, who flew in from Washington, D.C. to help broker the deal. A former California Labor Secretary, Su is currently an “acting” U.S. Labor Secretary, basically because senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been holding up her nomination.
The labor deal is still not final. Still needs to be ratified in a worker vote, a process that’s expected to begin October 18, according to the Chronicle.
Image: @SEIU via Twitter