Kaiser health care workers picket over working conditions, patient care
Dozens of health care workers joined the picket line in front of the Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center on Wednesday to bring awareness to critical staffing conditions and a patient care crisis at Kaiser facilities.
It’s part of a coordinated protest at more than 40 Kaiser facilities across the state. Kaiser is the nation’s largest nonprofit health care system.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing more than 85,000 frontline workers, is calling on Kaiser to make significant investments in its workforce.
The current contract is set to expire Sept. 30. Both sides have been negotiating since April.
Ultrasound technician Michael Ramey, president of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 30, said facilities are understaffed and his members are overworked. He said that’s affecting morale.
“It affects our access to get those people in, to get them cared for, to get their preventative issues taken care of, to get their acute issues taken care of," Ramey said. "And so it grossly impacts our quality of care.”
The union said because of the shortage, Kaiser members sometimes have to wait months to get service.
Workers on the picket line said they're not only fighting for better working conditions, they are also fighting for better patient care.
Trayvon Moss, a senior food service worker at a Kaiser hospital, said he'd seen firsthand how the staffing shortage affects patients. He said food service sometimes gets delayed up to two hours and patients get angry.
“They're just mad because they're hungry. Right? It's part of it," Moss said. "You get hungry, you get irritated, you can't feel better. And they didn't come here to get more sick. They came to get well.”
Kaiser calls the picketing a ploy to create bargaining leverage during contract negotiations.
In a statement, Kaiser said it has committed to hiring 10,000 new workers. But the health care giant says it is facing challenges from a labor shortage, supply chain disruptions and increases in demand for care.
"Staffing challenges have been happening all across health care, but are actually less true at Kaiser Permanente now than elsewhere," said Frank Hurtarte, senior vice president of human resources for Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Hawaii. "It’s worth remembering that during the pandemic, we took extraordinary steps to support and protect our workforce."
Kaiser says patient care was not affected by Wednesday's picket.
More picketing is expected this week in Washington, Oregon and Colorado.