Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente employees have voted to authorize a strike in Southern California.
Over 95% of more than 18,000 union members voted in favor of the authorization, but it does not automatically trigger a strike. The union has been in negotiations with Kaiser since April of this year.
The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, which represents nurses and other health care workers, would still need to provide a 10-day notice before stopping any work.
The union is asking for a 4% wage increase but Kaiser is offering 1% with a 1% bonus. New hires in 2023 would also be offered a reduced wage.
"Kaiser Permanente-sitting on $44.5 billion in reserves-wants to slash wages for new nurses and health care workers and depress wages for current workers. Kaiser Permanente has turned a $2.7 billion profit during the pandemic, and continued to gain subscribers, yet top Kaiser Permanente leaders claim to be under threat from pop-up clinics and start-up apps," union officials said in a statement.
Jenny Wong-Swanson is a registered nurse who's worked for Kaiser for 10 years. She says one of the major sticking points right now, according to the union, is a proposal by administration to start a two-tier pay system.
Basically, the union says all current nurses would be paid at one rate, with all future nurses at a rate more than 25% lower.
"I can't imagine doing the same work alongside somebody who is making significantly more than me for doing the same work," Wong-Swanson said.
Any strike would affect Kaiser hospitals across Southern California, including those in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Baldwin Park, Downey and Fontana, as well as numerous clinics and medical office buildings.
"We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them. Our priority is to continue to provide our members with high-quality, safe care. In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff," Kaiser Permanente said in a statement.