OAKLAND, Calif. – Less than three months away from their contract expiration, tens of thousands of healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente will hold pickets to protest the short staffing crisis and its effects on patients and caregivers. The pickets will take place at 50 facilities across California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, and will start July 24 and run through July 29.
After three years of the COVID pandemic and chronic understaffing, healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente are calling on management to provide safe staffing levels. Caregivers say understaffed hospitals and clinics are unsafe and can lead to long wait times, mistaken diagnoses, and neglect, making it harder to give patients quality care.
“We’re feeling incredibly undervalued by Kaiser. We’re short-staffed, and every shift we have to do more because there aren’t enough of us. Kaiser called us ‘heroes’ during the worst of the pandemic, and now they’re not making the investments necessary to provide safe staffing,” said Lenetra Stevenson, a patient care technician at Kaiser Permanente in Fremont, California. “Kaiser pays their executives huge salaries while some of our co-workers are living in their cars. We’re simply calling on Kaiser to put patient care over profits and make meaningful investments in its workforce to solve the staffing shortage.”
Earlier this year, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing more than 85,000 healthcare workers in seven states and the District of Columbia, began its national bargaining process, the third-largest set of union negotiations this year in the United States.
The Coalition and Kaiser Permanente last negotiated a contract in 2019, before healthcare workers found themselves on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic that has worsened working conditions and exacerbated a healthcare staffing crisis. Their current contract with Kaiser Permanente expires on September 30.
Despite being a non-profit organization – which means it pays no income taxes on its earnings and extremely limited property taxes – Kaiser Permanente has reported more than $21 billion in profit over the last five years. Kaiser Permanente’s net worth doubled between 2018 and 2022 to $58.9 billion. The CEO of Kaiser Permanente was compensated more than $16 million in 2021. Forty-nine executives at Kaiser Permanente are compensated more than $1 million annually.
In April, Kaiser Permanente announced plans to spend $5 billion to acquire Geisinger Health to create a new non-profit system. Kaiser Permanente has investments of $113 billion in the United States and abroad, including in fossil fuels, casinos, fast food, for-profit prisons, alcohol companies, military weapons and more.