Kaiser Permanente workers prepare for looming strike

As she drove out of the Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills, one woman said, "I just came to visit friends."

Some knew about the labor unrest among Kaiser Permanente workers. 

Over the weekend, Kaiser's union members have been practicing their picketing, marching around their union hall, and exercising what to do if there is a real strike. 

One said, "I feel like everyone should be paid more. We need to support our unions more so now than ever. We need to pay the people that care for us a reasonable wage." 


"As someone with a sibling in nursing I've always supported. I think nurses are undervalued, underpaid," another said.

So does that the SEIU-UHW. The hospital workers union. Renee Saldana is their press secretary.

"Overall, Kaiser frontline workers are preparing to go on an unfair labor practices strike because they want patients to be safe and get the care they deserve," she said.

Saldana said the talks up in San Francisco are continuing and "they are bargaining with them right now".

But, she admits, the clock is ticking on a three-day walkout that would start at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

One of the biggest issues is the shortage of available health care workers causing greater workload stress on those who are working on the Kaiser team. 

In a statement Kaiser's Management said, "Despite the acute shortage of health care workers nationally, we have been able to hire more than 50,000 frontline employees in the last two years."

"What we're hearing from frontline workers who are in the facilities every day is that Kaiser is not moving fast enough. We're hearing about patients waits - long delays for appointments for mammograms, cancer screenings, to see primary care practitioners, to get mental health appointments," said Saldana.

Better pay is another concern. 

"We're living in a place where its very expensive to live in Los Angeles. Many healthcare workers can afford to live near where they work," said Saldana.

"We lead total compensation in every market where we operate and our proposals in bargaining would ensure we keep that position," Kaiser management said.

Management adds under its proposal the hourly minimum wage in 2024 would start at $23 an hour.

But what about patient care during a walkout? 

The union says it did what it was legally and morally bound to do. 

"We did submit a ten notice advance notice of our intent to go on an unfair labor practices strike," she said.

All Kaiser management will say about patient care is that, "in the case that a strike does begin October 4th, we have contingency plans in place to ensure our members continue to receive safe, high-quality care for the duration of the strike."

Kaiser says its hospitals and emergency rooms will remain open if there is a strike and members will be able to get information on pharmacy, appointments, and other services on its website KP.org.