SAN DIEGO — More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente Union workers across five states and Washington D.C. were back out on the picket lines for a second day demanding better wages and more staffing.
Gus Hussein is a respiratory therapist with Kaiser and said what little staff they have must fill in the gaps.
“The day shift works the night shift and the night shift working into the day shift,” said Hussein, who’s been a respiratory therapist for 10 years with six years at Kaiser.
However, several workers said the strike is about patient care.
“I’m often rushing to put out different fires of different patients, I’m bouncing from one room to the other and leaving them with questions unanswered,” Hussein said. “Really hard and leaves us prone to making errors and mistakes, and not provided the care we promised members,”
Cathy Lechien, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) at Kaiser in their OBGYN unit, has been an LVN for 35 years and said that patient care is in a crisis at the moment.
“They’re frustrated as well, their surgeries just got canceled, their appointments, their new patient appointments. I work with cancer patients, it is very frustrating for them,” Lechien explained.
Demands are coming from technicians, home health aides, hospital coordinators and custodians, among dozens of other positions.
Since the strikes began, the hospitals and facilities are feeling the impact.
Marisol Preller, OPEIU LOCAL 30 strike captain and licensed vocational nurse with Kaiser, said she is hearing about building conditions from the workers inside.
“They are saying how the trash is overflowing in the hallways, people are getting sent to different hospitals,” said Marisol Preller, OPEIU LOCAL 30 strike captain and licensed vocational nurse with Kaiser for five years.
Negotiations between Kaiser and union workers for a new contract started back in April.
“It took Kaiser a long time to come to the table…they were not willing to compromise…now seeing the impact they are willing to come back to the table,” Preller said.
On Thursday, Kaiser said in an email to FOX 5, they are unsure if they are “formally” meeting at the bargaining table but say “progress continues to be made in reaching an agreement.”
The latest update from Kaiser showed they are offering a minimum wage of $23 an hour for California and $21 an hour for markets outside of California.
Kaiser Permanente is a not-for-profit healthcare provider. They reported $3 billion in profits for the first six months of this year, while the CEO was compensated $16 million in 2021.
“It’s hard to see CEO gets $3, $4, $5 million bonuses and ours are going to be cut and taken away from us,” Lechien said.
“Continue to listen to us at the bargaining table, what we are asking for is fair, we deserve it, we earned it through COVID,” said Jeff Merritt, a hospital coordinator with Kaiser for more than five years.
Union workers are planning to finish out their three-day planned strike on Friday.
Kaiser said hospitals, ERs and pharmacies will remain open during the strike.