Health

Kaiser Permanente workers ratify deal after historic strike

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
Nov. 9, 2023 9:38 p.m.
FILE: Kaiser workers dance on the picket line while striking outside Sunnyside Hospital in Clackamas, Oregon, on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023.  The union was pushing for higher wages, saying low pay was contributing to turnover and short staffing.

FILE: Kaiser workers dance on the picket line while striking outside Sunnyside Hospital in Clackamas, Oregon, on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. The union was pushing for higher wages, saying low pay was contributing to turnover and short staffing.

Amelia Templeton / OPB

Kaiser Permanente health care workers announced Thursday they have ratified a contract with significant pay raises following a historic strike.

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Tens of thousands of frontline workers at the health care giant took to picket lines Oregon, Southwest Washington and five other states, as well as the District of Columbia, in early October to protest what they said were low wages, understaffing and unsafe patient conditions at Kaiser.

The approved contract cements a 21% wage increase over four years, a $23 per hour minimum wage in Oregon and Washington facilities, and a year of accelerated hiring to improve staffing ratios, among other items.

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“This is more than a contract — it signals a new day for frontline health care workers and for patient safety across Kaiser facilities,” Angelica Mateo, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Kaiser employees in Oregon who joined the strike included service and clerical workers, certified nursing assistants, food service workers, housekeeping staff, schedulers and others, through SEIU Local 49. The strike led to notable disruptions in service at Kaiser facilities, as some medical and dental offices had to close.

Those workers returned to the job within days of the strike beginning, and a tentative deal was reached Oct. 13. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions that organized the strike said 98.5% of workers voted to approve the contract..

The coalition thanked the Biden administration for supporting Kaiser workers and helping them reach a deal. The new contract will last until Sept. 30, 2027.

The deal does not resolve two other ongoing labor disputes at Kaiser facilities in Oregon. Some pharmacy workers organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 remain on strike, and Kaiser has provided regular updates on pharmacies that have closed as a result. The company said it expects that strike could last through Nov. 18.

Imaging workers at Kaiser have also joined that strike, and are expected to remain on the picket lines through mid-November.

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