The largest health care strike in U.S. history has entered its second day of picketing, after more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers walked out Wednesday morning.
Around 300 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 49 picketed Wednesday morning at the Cascade Park office on Mill Plain Boulevard. The strike for unionized Washington employees is set to end at 6 p.m. Friday, but the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said it has plans to strike for longer in November if a new contract agreement is not negotiated before then.
Hilary Costa, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente said in a statement Wednesday, “while we have not reached a contract settlement, we have been able to reach a number of tentative agreements in bargaining, and our offers to date address the unions’ priorities.”
However, Caroline Lucas, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said in a statement Wednesday night, “frontline health care workers are awaiting a meaningful response from Kaiser executives regarding some of our key priorities including safe staffing, outsourcing protections for incumbent health care workers, and fair wages to reduce turnover. Healthcare workers within the coalition remain ready to meet at any time. Currently, the strike continues, and there are no sessions scheduled at this hour.”
Service Employees International Union Local 49 has more than 15,000 unionized employees across Southwest Washington and Oregon. Union leaders said Wednesday morning they are fighting for a safe working environment and strategies to address short staffing levels at Kaiser facilities.
Registered nurses, doctors and dentists are not on the picket lines, as they have signed a contract with Kaiser that extends for four years. Kaiser said it will continue to prioritize patient care during the strike, according to a statement on its website from Sunday. Patients may experience longer wait times in office or have to reschedule appointments and surgeries.
Pharmacy locations at hospitals and urgent care will remain open, but as of Sunday, the Salmon Creek and Orchards outpatient pharmacies were temporarily closed. Kaiser, which says pharmacy closures are subject to change, is keeping an updated list of closures and service interruptions on its website.