Kaiser Permanente workers in California and Oregon on Monday voted to authorize a strike, clearing the way for potentially thousands of health care staffers to stop working over demands for safer working conditions and better pay.
The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (OFNHP) and the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) announced that their respective groups had voted to authorize a strike.
"We are doing this for our patients. We are fighting for #SafeStaffing and the future of healthcare, and we know that Kaiser's offers will be a disaster for patient care. We are #PatientDefenders, and we fight for patients!" OFNHP tweeted.
We have now authorized a strike by 96%!— OFNHP #PatientDefenders (@OFNHP) October 11, 2021
We are doing this for our patients. We are fighting for #SafeStaffing and the future of healthcare, and we know that Kaiser's offers will be a disaster for patient care. We are #PatientDefenders, and we fight for patients!#UnionJobs pic.twitter.com/LLXaiPo1dV
Among the UNAC/UHCP workers, 96 percent of more than 18,000 members voted to authorize a strike at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region, according to the union.
BREAKING: 96% voted yes to authorize a strike at @KPSCALnews if necessary. 18k+ UNAC/UHCP members voted. We are #UNACUHCPstrong and we're #ready!— UNAC/UHCP (@unacuhcp) October 11, 2021
Negotiations are set to continue with @kpthrive for the remainder of the week. #InvestInPatientCare #HeartofKP pic.twitter.com/IVEtMutw5J
As The Washington Post noted, these votes do not automatically lead to a strike, as the unions must give Kaiser Permanente 10 days to respond before workers walk off.
UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan told the Post, "Our members feel that they’re pivotal stakeholders to how health care is administered and designed at a front-line level. We think it’s valuable work and we think it’s being cut back. We think systems have been shortchanged."
In a statement provided to The Hill, Kaiser's senior vice president of human resources, Arlene Peasnall, said that the health care company would continue to negotiate and is seeking to resolve the matter quickly, pointing to Kaiser's "24-year history of partnership with the unions."
"We understand that some union leaders are now calling for a strike authorization vote, even though our members and communities are continuing to face the challenges of the ongoing pandemic," Peasnall said.
“We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them,” she added. “Our priority is to continue to provide our members with high-quality, safe care. In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff.”
--Updated at 11:22 a.m.