More than 21,000 Kaiser Permanente Caregivers to Strike Statewide on January 31
OAKLAND – This week, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) notified Kaiser Permanente of the union’s intent to engage in a 24-hour statewide strike on January 31st.
NUHW’s 4,000 members at Kaiser will be joined by 17,000 Registered Nurses with the California Nurses Association and 650 members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39 who will be striking in sympathy with NUHW in the largest walkout in the HMO’s history.
The January 31st walkout will be the fourth time NUHW Kaiser workers have walked the picket line since they began bargaining in 2010. Last September, NUHW members were joined by CNA RNs who struck in sympathy, for a total of 21,000 Kaiser workers on strike. This month’s action will exceed that total by an additional 650 workers.
Despite record profits over the last three years of more than $5.6 billion, Kaiser management is insisting on major reductions to workers’ healthcare coverage and retirement benefits. NUHW members are committed to holding the line against these cuts, which Kaiser intends to impose upon tens of thousands more employees represented by other unions as their contracts come up for renewal over the next several years.
Even while demanding sacrifice from frontline caregivers in order to increase Kaiser’s profits, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, George Halvorson, took home almost $9 million in compensation in 2010, and numerous top managers at Kaiser enjoy lavish salaries, bonuses and perks, including as many as eight separate pension plans per executive.
In addition to insisting on benefit cuts for workers, Kaiser administrators continue to refuse to address caregivers’ concerns about chronic short staffing and its negative impacts on patient care. Last November, NUHW members exposed gross deficiencies in Kaiser’s mental health services in a published report, available at https://nuhw.org/caredenied. The Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) is currently investigating the report’s claims.
Despite its record profits, two weeks ago Kaiser imposed rate increases on 660,000 California policyholders still faltering under the burden of the Great Recession, a move that will garner the HMO an additional half billion dollars in revenue over the coming year. In a letter to the DMHC, NUHW and the Courage Campaign pointed to “significant deficiencies” in Kaiser’s rate review filing for the increases and requested an investigation into the economic justification for forcing this financial burden on California families when they can least afford it.
“What it all boils down to is Kaiser top executives putting profits before patient care,” said Dr. Spencer Gross, a Psychologist at Kaiser Pleasanton. “Kaiser pays its CEO $9 million a year and has billions in surplus revenue, but that’s still not enough. They want even more sacrifice from caregivers, patients and California’s struggling families so that Kaiser executives can pay themselves like Wall Street bankers.”