Shropshire Star

US healthcare workers go on strike over wages and staff shortages

Kaiser Permanente is one of the US’s larger insurers and healthcare system operators.

Hospitals Strike

Picketing is under way at Kaiser Permanente hospitals as some 75,000 US healthcare workers go on strike in Virginia, California and three other states over wages and staffing shortages.

Kaiser Permanente is one of the US’s larger insurers and healthcare system operators, with 39 hospitals nationwide.

The non-profit company, based in Oakland, California, provides health coverage for nearly 13 million people, sending customers to clinics and hospitals it runs or contracts with to provide care.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing about 85,000 of the health system’s employees nationally, approved a strike for three days in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, and for one day in Virginia and Washington, DC.

The strikers include licensed vocational nurses, home health aides and ultrasound sonographers, as well as technicians in radiology, X-ray, surgical, pharmacy and emergency departments.

Doctors are not participating, and Kaiser says its hospitals, including emergency rooms, will remain open during the picketing.

Hospitals Strike
A Kaiser Permanente sign stands outside the hospital in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles (AP)

The company said it was bringing in thousands of temporary workers to fill gaps during the strike. But the strike could lead to delays in getting appointments and non-urgent procedures being rescheduled.

It comes amid unprecedented worker organising – from strike authorisations to work stoppages – within multiple industries this year, including, transportation, entertainment and hospitality.

Wednesday’s strike is the latest one for the healthcare industry this year as it continues to confront burnout with the heavy workloads – problems that were exacerbated greatly by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unions representing Kaiser workers in August asked for a 25 dollar (£20.69) hourly minimum wage, as well as increases of 7% each year in the first two years and 6.25% each year in the two years afterward.

They say understaffing is boosting the hospital system’s profits but hurting patients, and executives have been bargaining in bad faith during negotiations.

Kaiser Permanente reported 2.1 billion dollars (£1.73 billion) in net income for this year’s second quarter on more than 25 billion dollars (£20.6 billion) in operating revenue. But the company said it still was dealing with cost headwinds and challenges from inflation and labour shortages.

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