Unless a contract is reached by Oct. 31, 3,000 KPWA healthcare workers will strike on Nov. 1
SEATTLE – Kaiser Permanente Washington healthcare workers have overwhelmingly voted 99% in favor to authorize a strike on Nov. 1 over the corporation’s bad-faith bargaining, unfair labor practices, and refusal to address chronic short-staffing concerns unless KPWA reaches a negotiated contract by midnight on Oct. 31.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represents about 3,000 healthcare workers at 36 Kaiser Permanente facilities across Washington.
Overnight, the national Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, of which SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a member, reached a tentative national agreement with Kaiser Permanente. Washington Kaiser workers are still negotiating a separate contract for KPWA workers to urgently and rapidly address staffing shortages, including faster and more significant wage increases.
“We’re proud of the agreement we’ve reached nationally, but Kaiser Permanente Washington healthcare workers are still fighting for a contract that protects Washington workers and patients,” said Jane Hopkins, registered nurse and president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “The staffing crisis in Washington means Kaiser needs to do more here than a phased-in wage increase. We need to catch up and keep up. We are calling on Kaiser executives to reach a new contract with our 3,000 members that urgently addresses the issues we’re facing in Washington in time to avert a strike.”
Healthcare workers united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW have been in negotiations with Kaiser since June. Central to WA negotiations are healthcare workers’ concerns about unsafe staffing levels that lead to dangerously long wait times, misdiagnoses, and neglect, as well as concerns over staffing models and equity in the workplace.
“In 21 years working for Kaiser Permanente, I have never seen the kind of turnover, lack of access to care, or safety issues that we’re currently facing,” said Alanna Martin, a clinical social worker specializing in mental health in Seattle and a member leader of the KPWA bargaining team. “Skilled and dedicated colleagues leave every day for jobs that are paying 20-30 percent higher down the road. In order to address the recruitment and retention crisis, Kaiser Washington needs to urgently raise wages.”
“Healthcare workers like myself and my colleagues see a strike as an absolute last resort,” said Marie Neumayer, a medical assistant in Spokane, rank-and-file vice president with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, and member leader of the KPWA bargaining team. “We want to take care of our patients. But we see this as a needed response to Kaiser Washington executives’ unwillingness to reach a fair contract that addresses workers’ concerns and prioritizes patient care.”