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75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers have gone on strike. It's the largest healthcare strike in US history.

Katie Hawkinson   

75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers have gone on strike. It's the largest healthcare strike in US history.
  • 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees have gone on strike after failing to reach a contract agreement.
  • The strike began Wednesday morning and is the largest healthcare strike in US history.

More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare employees across the country went on strike Wednesday morning.

It is the largest healthcare strike the US has ever seen.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the healthcare company failed to reach a contract agreement by the September 30 deadline. As a result, healthcare workers across five states and Washington, DC, walked out to join the picket line. The strike will last through October 7, according to union officials, barring a contract agreement.

This historic strike comes over a month after the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced they'd be holding a $4 among their 85,000 unionized employees in eight states and Washington, DC, throughout September.

Now, strikes are happening in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition negotiated late into the night Tuesday ahead of the strike, Wayne Davis, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, told Insider. The two parties reached agreements on several specific proposals, according to Davis. Yet, there is still no contract as of Wednesday morning.

Kaiser Permanente employees say short-staffing hurts workers and patients alike

One of the top priorities for Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers is addressing $4.

Nahid Bokaee, a Kaiser Permanente pharmacist in Virginia for 20 years, told Insider she initially chose Kaiser Permanente over other job offers because they had a reputation for providing a high quality of life.

Now, Bokaee says things have changed.

"I used to be so happy," Bokaee told Insider from a Virginia picket line. "Now, fast forward to 2023 — the conditions are so bad that we have to go on a strike. We don't want a strike, but we have no choice."

David Hawa, a pharmacist for Kaiser Permanente's Virginia Medical Center, has worked at the company for 28 years. The last several years have been some of the hardest of his career, Hawa told Insider from the picket line. "Life has changed since COVID, and we've seen no adjustment in our demands," Hawa said.

Hawa and Bokaee both agreed that short-staffing is one of the biggest problems for staff and patients alike.

"The staffing crisis affects us, the frontline healthcare workers, and it affects our patients," Hawa said. "Patients stand in line longer, they're frustrated, they don't get the service they deserve."

Sarah Levesque, secretary-treasurer for OPEIU Local 2 — which represents hundreds of Kaiser Permanente workers in Washington, DC and Virginia — told Insider the impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare staff continue to affect Kaiser's quality of care.

"They got into healthcare because they care about their patients," Levesque told Insider from the picket line. "And for some of these healthcare workers here on the line, $4 to get an appointment."

Hilary Costa, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, told Insider on Sunday the company has already filled 9,000 Coalition-represented positions this year and expects to hit 10,000 by the end of October, if not sooner, and they will not stop hiring once they reach that goal.

Millions of patients could be impacted by the Kaiser strike

Costa said Sunday the healthcare company has contingency plans in place to ensure members continue to receive care during the strike. Their hospitals and emergency departments will also remain open.

Kaiser did not provide further details on their plan to minimize disruptions to patient care when asked by Insider on Wednesday morning.

Kaiser Permanente, a private healthcare company with $4 across the country — including 39 hospitals and 715 medical offices — serves more than 12 million people.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents workers in 95% of these facilities. That means more than 11 million people who rely on Kaiser Permanente will be affected by the strike.

While they will remain open, $4 because of the strike, Insider previously reported. That's because the Coalition represents employees across dozens of roles at the company, including registered nurses, admissions staff, cleaners, phlebotomists, surgery assistants, and others. The union doesn't represent the company's doctors.

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