Kaiser Permanente workers in San Diego vote to authorize joining nationwide strike beginning Oct. 14

Courtesy illustration.

After recently voting to authorize a strike against Kaiser Permanente, more than 4,200 healthcare workers in San Diego will be joining a nationwide strike beginning Oct. 14. It would be the nation’s largest strike in more than two decades – affecting more than 80,000 workers in six states and the District of Columbia and at least 480 in East County.

“We believe the only way to ensure our patients get the best care is to take this step,” said Robert Sparrow, an x-ray technician at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. “Our goal is to get Kaiser to stop committing unfair labor practices and get back on track as the best place to work and get care. There is no reason for Kaiser to let a strike happen when it has the resources to invest in patients, communities and workers.”

Picket lines will be set up at Kaiser Permanente hospitals, medical office buildings and other facilities in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It would be the country’s largest strike since 185,000 Teamsters walked off the job at UPS in 1997.

The 4,200 members of Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Local 30 voted between Sept. 16 and Sept. 20 to approve an unfair labor practices strike. Of those OPEIU Local 30 members casting ballots, 98 percent voted in support of the action. 

Jobs affected by the strike include optometrists, clinical laboratory scientists, respiratory and x-ray technicians, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, medical assistants and housekeepers, among hundreds of other positions.

Workers are trying to negotiate a new National Agreement that they say would restore a true worker-management partnership; ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology; build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years and protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.

The workers’ national contract expired Sept. 30, 2018, and in December 2018 the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith. Since then, Kaiser has continued to commit unfair labor practices.  

As a non-profit entity, Kaiser Permanente is supposed to serve the public interest in exchange for not paying income taxes and little to nothing in property taxes – an estimated tax break of more than $2.3 billion over the last two years. Workers claim that in recent years, the corporation has departed from its community-oriented mission by piling up profits and reserves, raising rates on patients and enriching top executives.