Kaiser Permanente Medical Office located at Keizer Station. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)
On Monday, Nov. 15, 3,400 Kaiser Permanente workers in Oregon and southwest Washington will join a total of 35,000 workers across five states in beginning an indefinite strike. The strike is expected to impact Kaiser Permanente’s Keizer Station Medical Office and at least three Kaiser facilities in Salem.
“Striking is our last resort, but it is what we must do so that we can protect our patients, our workers, and our entire public healthcare system from the disastrous attack Kaiser leadership is staging,” said Jodi Barschow, President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), the union that represents the 3,400 workers.
Shane Burley, a spokesman for OFNHP, said that he doesn’t expect the strike to affect the Kaiser-affiliated Salem Hospital.
"We are in contact with Kaiser Permanente physicians who provide care for patients at Salem Health and are prepared. We anticipate only minimal or no impact for Kaiser Permanente patients receiving care at Salem Health," said Lisa Wood, a spokeswoman for Salem Health.
Last month, 96% of nearly 3,400 Kaiser workers in Oregon and southwest Washington voted to approve the strike. On Nov. 4, labor unions gave Kaiser Permanente the required 10-day notice that they planned on striking on Nov. 15.
“We hoped that simply authorizing the strike, holding rallies and other forms of collective worker and community action would push Kaiser to do the right thing, but they have continued to push proposals that would create dangerous conditions for patients and staff,” said Barschow.
Lack of staffing, wages and working conditions are all driving forces behind the strike. Kaiser workers also oppose a “two-tier” system proposed by Kaiser executives that would pay future hires less and potentially worsen the staffing crisis. Under the proposed system, wages for new hires would be cut by 15%.
“The 'two-tiered' system would accelerate the staffing crisis, ensuring dangerous conditions in hospitals and clinics around Oregon. Kaiser RNs and other healthcare professionals have filled out a survey asking how they are responding to the crisis. 42.2% of those surveyed report that they are considering leaving the field entirely over the treatment they have received at Kaiser,” a statement from the Oregon nurses and health professionals union said.
These 3,400 Kaiser workers will be joined by 32,000 workers across five states, with the possibility of thousands more joining once the strike begins. There are a total of 52 Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oregon that will be affected, with a total of four facilities in Keizer and Salem.
A statement on Kaiser’s website says that a strike notice “does not mean a strike will happen” and that “negotiations are continuing and we're optimistic that an agreement can be reached at the bargaining table.”
If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement, Kaiser will list which locations and services are impacted on their website. The health care provider will also contact individuals by email, phone call or text if any elective surgeries and non-urgent appointments need to be rescheduled.
Additionally, in a statement on their website, Kaiser said in the event of a strike, outpatient pharmacies may close as well and the best way to fill a prescription is use the mail order delivery service available on their website and app.
News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.