California’s Kaiser Workers Approve Strike That Could Go Nationwide

Workers at the healthcare giant say contract negotiations have stalled amid requests for pay raises and more staff.

More than 37,000 Kaiser Permanente workers overwhelmingly voted this week to authorize a strike that could turn into a massive nationwide protest come October.

Two-thirds of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West took part in the vote and 98 percent of those supported a strike, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said. Other unions that represent Kaiser workers nationwide are scheduled to vote in the weeks ahead, which could turn into a strike of up to 80,000 workers amid contract negotiations. 

The strike could happen as soon as October, when many contracts expire, but may not if unions are satisfied with the negotiations process. Kaiser employees, not including most doctors, are seeking wage increases to make a middle-class living and more staff. The healthcare giant, for its part, calls the union’s vote “a bullying tactic” amid the bargaining process and that employees are paid 23 percent above market rate, SF Gate reports.  

Kaiser is the Bay Area’s biggest employer and based in Oakland. Its mental health clinicians went on a one-day strike in July, demanding more staff to cut down on long wait times for appointments.

Monday’s strike vote follows other labor movement developments. Workers who prepare airline meals at San Francisco International Airport also authorized a strike in June, Anchor Brewing workers became the first known craft brewery to unionize in February, and Marriott workers conducted one of the largest hotel strikes in decades in December.

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