FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 12, 2021
165 Health Care Professionals in Hawaii Announce Strike to Demand Kaiser Permanente Invest in Patient Care and the Workers Who Provide It
On Monday, November 22, frontline workers will join nearly 40,000 KP employees in California, Oregon, and Hawaii who announced their plans to strike in November as well, making this the nation’s largest strike this year by far and the largest strike ever against Kaiser Permanente
LOS ANGELES – Yesterday, UNAC/UHCP (United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals) members in Hawaii delivered a 10-day notice of a strike against Kaiser Permanente. The 165 physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and pharmacists, are standing together to demand that KP invest in patient care and the workers who provide it.
Beginning on Monday, November 22, following a mandatory ten-day notice period as required by law of all health care unions, this strike will affect 13 KP facilities on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the big island.
This announcement comes as numerous other unions have announced strike plans, including:
- 21,000 UNAC/UHCP members striking from 11/15 in southern California
- 7,600 United Steelworkers (USW) members striking from 11/15 in southern California
- 3,400 Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (OFNHP) members striking from 11/15 in Oregon in Washington
- Roughly 2,500 UFCW members striking from 11/18 in southern California
- 1,350 UNAC/UHCP members striking from 11/22 in northern California
- Nearly 2,000 UNITE HERE members striking from 11/22 in Hawaii
Nearly 40,000 KP employees plan to be on strike as of November 22 – making this the nation’s largest strike this year by far.
Hawaii pharmacists and therapists have been in protracted contract negotiations, working against employer proposals seemingly designed to thwart the newly organized units. The new units are also worried about the employer’s resistance to solving long-term issues of staffing and quality.
“Kaiser Permanente refuses to invest in patient care, and Hawaii’s health care professionals won’t stand for it,” said Denise Duncan, RN, and UNAC/UHCP President. “Patients deserve the best resources, yet management continues to ignore critical staffing shortages, and make it more difficult for employee unions to flourish. UNAC/UHCP members are asserting their power to put their patient’s well-being first, and it’s time for KP executives to listen.”
“Kaiser Permanente has billions in reserves, yet management keeps asking us to perform miracles out of magic,” said Jake Elsbernd, a pharmacist based on Oahu who serves on the union bargaining team. “We shouldn’t have to fight so hard to ensure our facilities are properly staffed, and our patients receive the best care possible. We won’t take it anymore, and it’s time to strike.”
The last time UNAC/UHCP struck against Kaiser Permanente was 1980, before many of its current members were born. In 1995, members voted to authorize a strike but settled the contract prior to striking.
Health care professionals across the country are striking over Kaiser Permanente’s proposals to depress wages for current employees and slash wages for incoming workers during a national health care staffing crisis. Other health care systems across the nation—some not as fiscally strong as Kaiser Permanente—are making the right choices for patients by attracting the best caregivers with large wage increases and special incentives, from signing bonuses to onsite childcare. Meanwhile, KP — sitting on billions of cash — has failed to address union proposals that would tackle pressing problems such as staffing shortages, racial justice, and equal health access.
KP executives claim their workers are overpaid, citing a fatally flawed wage study conducted unilaterally, in violation of its 2018 agreement with UNAC/UHCP and the other unions in the Alliance of Health Care Unions. The study compares KP to small rural hospitals, rehab nursing homes, and non-union employers, while leaving out comparable, large health care systems like Sharp and the University of California.
KP has more health plan members in California than its competitors: 9.2 million. KP has solid financial ratings because of the strength and diversity of its health plan membership: KP reported to Fitch Ratings that 65% of the nation’s Fortune 100 companies actually contract with Kaiser for their employees’ health care, and no single employee or employer represents more than 5% of Kaiser Permanente’s total membership. Fortune 100 companies are not going to start-ups for the level of care their employees need and expect.
Kaiser Permanente remains fiscally strong with more than $44.5 billion in reserves.
California’s top two legislative leaders recently came out against Kaiser Permanente’s two-tier proposals
“We are very much concerned with Kaiser’s demands to establish a two-tier wage structure for new employees,” reads the letter from Toni G. Atkins, Senate President Pro Tempore and Anthony Rendon, Speaker of the Assembly to Greg Adams, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc. “We understand this issue had been the primary reason these negotiations have stalled during a period when good labor and management relations are critical to address the increased demand for quality health care services throughout California. Installing a two-tiered hiring and wage system would undermine this relationship.”
More on the strike authorization votes and the issues involved:
United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) represents more than 32,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals in California and Hawaii, including optometrists; pharmacists; physical, occupational and speech therapists; case managers; nurse midwives; social workers; clinical lab scientists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners. UNAC/UHCP is affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO.