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Thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers threaten to strike

Caroline Champlin Oct 13, 2021
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Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco, California on March 12, 2020. Thousands of Kaiser Permanente nurses and health care workers are ready to strike over pay and working conditions. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers threaten to strike

Caroline Champlin Oct 13, 2021
Heard on:
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco, California on March 12, 2020. Thousands of Kaiser Permanente nurses and health care workers are ready to strike over pay and working conditions. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images
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Thousands of Kaiser Permanente nurses and other Kaiser health care workers in California and Oregon have voted to strike, if necessary, over pay and working conditions. The provider said it needs to cut labor costs to stay competitive.

Kaiser is proposing a system where new employees would make less than current ones.

Hal Ruddick is chief negotiator for the Alliance of Health Care Unions, which represents Kaiser employees. He said that policy would discourage new hires and divide the workplace.

“The new employees, they look at the older, more senior employees, and they basically blame them for agreeing to that system,” he said.

Ruddick said thousands more Kaiser workers will vote this week on whether to threaten a strike. 

UCLA health economist Jack Needleman said the situation is an example of the stickiness of wages – once they go up, it’s hard to take them back down.

“Places that are not unionized, have the freedom to reset their wage scale subject to the labor market. Kaiser being union has fewer degrees of freedom there,” he said.

In a statement, Kaiser Permanente said the union is required to give notice 10-days before striking and that if there is a strike, its facilities would be served by physicians and contingency staff.

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