SAN JOSE, Calif. - Patients who rely on Kaiser Permanente for their healthcare will likely see disruptions and delays beginning Wednesday. This, as 75,000 unionized Kaiser employees prepare to walk off their jobs.
"Kaiser has not, the executives have not listened to the front line members, the employees about this staffing crisis. And until they can come to the table in good faith, and bargain with the rank and file members, regarding the staffing crisis, we will not…it will not turn. We will be striking (Wednesday)," said Angela Glasper," a member of the SEIU-UHW negotiation team.
She said saber-rattling we’ve seen in the past will become workers walking off their jobs. The lone issue separating Kaiser Permanente, and its union workers is staffing. Union members say patients usually wait three-to-six months for routine appointments.
The two sides had been at odds over pay, staffing levels and retention, for several years, but COVID-19 worsened the situation.
"Me myself, had an appointment to get an exam that, I was being tested for something serious. It took me six months to get that exam done," Glasper said. "So you can imagine what the patients are going through."
Seventy-five thousand union workers across the country are prepared to strike for three days.
"Certainly the hospitals will attempt to hire replacement workers, as the often did during nurses strikes. But it’s unlikely they’ll find enough people to cover such a large number of states and union workers that are on strike," said Dr. Robert Ovetz, a labor relations expert at San Jose State University.
Kaiser Permanente officials declined comment. In a statement from Monday, they said, "A strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified…Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access."
Those words are cold comfort for employees such as Angela Glasper, who’s worked for Kaiser for 35 years. She’s now conflicted by a vexing paradox: In order to get her patients the quality care they need, she said not showing up for work is her the best option.
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"We’ve been complaining about staffing for years. This is not something that just came about. It’s been years since we had proper staffing," said Glasper.
The strike is slated for three days, but there’s the possibility it could go longer, or shorter if a solution is reached.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv