SAN DIEGO — Nearly 90,000 Kaiser Permanente workers may soon be on strike. The first vote to authorize a strike takes place Saturday after months of failed negotiations.
“We needed staff yesterday, let alone tomorrow,” Michael Ramey said.
Ramey has been an ultrasound technician at Kaiser Permanente for the last 27 years. He is also President of OPEIU Local 30, one of 12 unions within Kaiser, that are inching toward a strike.
“Patients can’t get the appointments they need and deserve on time, the exams that they need in a timely fashion for their care, for their health,” Ramey said.
Union leaders have faulted Kaiser for inadequate and unsafe staffing levels. The coalition of unions throughout the nation represents about 40% of the Kaiser workforce.
“It also impacts them when they are seen because the staff is so understaffed and stretched thin. Working double and triple the workload, it’s not possible for patients to that sense that,” Ramey said.
Voting to authorize a strike will begin Saturday and go through mid-September. The current employment contract expires Sept. 30.
Kaiser has also been criticized about its bargaining conduct. Just a few days ago, Ramey says representatives refused to even meet face to face.
“It’s called bargain, be willing to bargain. We can’t bargain when there’s no one on the other side of the table,” Ramey said.
In a lengthy statement to FOX 5, Kaiser said it is fully committed to reaching an agreement and bargaining in good faith.
That statement also said in part:
“This week, over the course of our sixth formal negotiation session since national bargaining began in April, we offered proposals on important issues including improvements to the performance sharing bonus plan (psp) and an enterprise-wide guaranteed minimum wage for our coalition-represented employees. In addition, committees met on staffing, operational savings, and local bargaining agreements.”
Kaiser says it is confident an agreement will be reached before the end of September. Meanwhile, union representatives say if a strike moves forward, it would be the largest strike of healthcare workers in U.S. history.