Sanders backs Kaiser Permanente workers ahead of Monday strike
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and seven Senate Democrats on Friday urged Kaiser Permanente to negotiate a new contract with more than 30,000 health care workers planning to go on strike Monday.
In a letter to Kaiser Permanente CEO Greg Adams, the senators expressed support for the company’s nurses and other health care workers threatening to walk out for better wages, calling them “heroes and heroines” for fighting on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Instead of treating these workers with the dignity and respect they deserve you have demanded that they accept just a 2 percent wage increase and a two-tier system that allows you to pay new workers lower wages,” the senators wrote. “Considering your recent profit margins, we find this offer to be demeaning and unacceptable.”
Kaiser Permanente employees in California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii are set to strike Monday after rejecting a contract offer that they said did not provide sufficient pay increases or address severe burnout in the workforce.
Unions representing the workers have noted that Kaiser Permanente reported $2.2 billion in profits last year and is sitting on $44.5 billion in cash reserves, a point that the senators emphasized in their letter.
“Let’s be clear. Those company profits did not occur by accident. They occurred because your employees were on the job, working tirelessly in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic,” the senators wrote.
Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined Sanders in the letter to Kaiser Permanente.
The strike could upend health care coverage on the West Coast amid a deadly pandemic, a situation both sides have said they want to avoid. Kaiser Permanente has pledged to continue offering services and is attempting to hire part-time nurses in the event of a strike.
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