With a strike scheduled, Kaiser nurses prepare to walk out while patients scramble to prepare for closures

Rose Bak

Nurses and other medical professionals plan to strike beginning November 15th to advocate for better wages and to protect patient care.

Photo courtesy of OFNHP - AFT Local 5017

After months of negotiations and a large rally in support of the labor union, it looks inevitable that Oregon will soon see one of the largest labor strikes in its history starting at 6:00 a.m. on November 15th.

As previously reported on NewsBreak, 3,400 healthcare workers represented by the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals (OFNHP- AFT Local 5017) completed a strike vote after negotiations broke down between the labor union and Kaiser Permanente. 96% of union members voted to support the strike.

Main points of dispute between the union and Kaiser center around wages and patient care. Kaiser maintains that their offered increases are well above industry average, while the union argues that not only are wages significantly lower than the market, but that wages and management decisions are creating staffing shortages that are impacting patient care.

Photo courtesy of OFNHP - AFT Local 5017

An overwhelming majority of union members voted to strike. The unions are backed with unprecedented public support. An estimated 800 people attended a rally to support nurses and medical staff, including Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor. A coalition of thirty Oregon state legislators also expressed their support in a letter. An additional 32,000 healthcare workers in five states have pledged to join the Kaiser strike in support of fellow union members.

Following ratification of the strike vote and transition planning with Kaiser, the OFNHP announced on Facebook:

We will begin our strike on November 15th when 3,400 of us walk off the job and onto the picket line at 6am. There will be a total of 32,000 of us across the West Coast, and 8,000 across five states may join soon. This fight is for the future of patient care, and it's time to put patients over profits!"

Photo courtesy of OFNHP - AFT Local 5017

Two hospitals and fifty other medical facilities will be impacted. Kaiser e-mailed its members this week, with this statement:

Kaiser Permanente has a long and productive history with organized labor, and we are proud to employ more union-represented employees than any other health care organization in the country. Sometimes, as part of the bargaining process, our unions vote to strike. Today, Kaiser Permanente received a strike notice from one of our labor unions. It’s important to know that this does not necessarily mean that a strike will happen. We’re optimistic that we will reach an agreement at the bargaining table. We want to reassure you that your care is our top priority. We have contingency plans to help ensure you continue to receive safe, high-quality care, in the event of a strike. If any changes to our operations do become necessary, we will share updates on kp.org."

The notice went on to state that "if any changes to our operations do become necessary, or there is a need to temporarily close or reduce services at any department or facility" they would potentially do the following:

  • Reschedule elective surgeries
  • Reschedule non-urgent appointments or change appointments to virtual care
  • Close some outpatient pharmacies

Although not mentioned in the notice to members, multiple sources have reported that Kaiser is actively recruiting temporary and traveling nursing staff to help offset staffing shortages during any strikes. This would mean that members seeking care will be faced with the choice to either delay care or cross picket lines and receive treatment from so-called "scabs".

Image courtesy of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions

Hiring scabs will be more difficult after a pledge of support from the Oregon Nurses Association, which announced that they would not cross a picket line to serve as replacement workers for Kaiser during any potential strike. Lynda Pond, President of the ONA Board of Directors, said in a statement:

“Hospital administrators have created a staffing crisis across the state,” “Although a strike is always a last resort, ONA agrees with the nurses and health care workers at OFNHP; Kaiser must put patients before profits and settle a fair contract.”

The last major strike of Kaiser staff was 33 years ago. Both sides have pledged to consider reasonable offers up until the strike deadline. The union's OFNHP Hardship Fund has also set up a fundraiser to help support workers who may experience financial hardship during the impending strike.

#portland #oregon #kaiser #nurses #striketober #labor #NOvember

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR

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