(KTLA, WBTW) — More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers walked off the job Wednesday morning, setting what has been described as the largest health care strike in U.S. history into motion.
Negotiators between the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the health care provider are ongoing and apparently making progress, but workers have started what is expected to be a three-day strike.
The strike, which targets Kaiser hospitals and medical offices in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Washington, began at 3 a.m. on the East Coast and was scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. in Southern California.
The strike itself should not impact those in South Carolina, if they have insurance coverage from Kaiser Permanente, according to the website doctor.com. The company has 44 doctors in South Carolina who accept patients with insurance coverage with Kaiser Permanente, including some in Myrtle Beach, Florence, Hartsville, Murrells Inlet, Loris, and Little River.
Nurses, technicians and support staff at hundreds of hospitals across multiple states are striking against what they call unfair labor practices and unfair working conditions that are affecting the quality of patient care. The strike does not involve doctors.
“We just can’t go on with this staffing crisis,” one worker preparing to picket outside the Kaiser hospital in North Hollywood said Wednesday morning.
Workers are demanding a 6.5% raise, protections against outsourcing and subcontractors, as well as a medical plan for retired employees.
Currently, the strike is set to end Saturday with workers in Southern California returning to hospitals by 6 a.m.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West announced on Sept. 14 that 98% of its members voted to approve the Oct. 4-6 strike in protest of “unfair labor practices.”
Kaiser Permanente is the largest nonprofit health care provider in the U.S. It reported profits topping $3 billion in the first six months of 2023, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday night, Kaiser Permanente said in a statement:
“Bargaining between Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is ongoing, and several agreements over specific provisions have been reached. Our team is available 24/7 to continue bargaining with the Coalition until we reach a fair and equitable agreement. We remain optimistic that there is still time to find agreement before any of the work stoppages called by the Coalition unions begin at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.”
A Kaiser executive told KTLA that in Southern California, all hospitals and emergency rooms will remain open during the strike. Pharmacies will also stay open and Kaiser Permanente officials said they are working to keep urgent care centers in operation.