Around 3,000 Colorado Kaiser Permanente workers joined the picket line Wednesday as part of a nationwide protest against what they call unfair labor practices and unsafe staffing levels.
In the contract negotiation, workers are not only asking for more pay but also more staffing, citing shortages within Kaiser.
LMP nurses, lab techs, pharmacist techs, X-ray techs, food and janitorial workers are all among those who are striking. The employees walking off the job could put a larger strain on already limited healthcare staffing.
The 3,000 people in Colorado are only part of a group of over 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers expected to strike in multiple states this week as the company and unions negotiate.
Kaiser Permanente workers drive largest US health care strike ever
The Kaiser Permanente Northfield Support Services workers started protesting at 6 a.m. Wednesday, and the Lone Tree medical office employees walked off the job shortly after at 6:30 a.m.
The strike is expected to last for three days if no deal is reached before that time, making it the largest strike of healthcare workers in U.S. history, according to The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.
Both Kaiser Permanente management and coalition union representatives are still at the bargaining table as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement, according to the company.
The vice president of the Health Care Division for the Service Employees International Union, Patricia Johnson-Gibson, claimed Kaiser Permanente does not want to come to the table to have good-faith bargaining conversations.
On the other side, Kaiser Permanente said every healthcare provider across the U.S. is facing staffing shortages and the company feels a strike is not justified.
Even with Kaiser's position, Johnson-Gibson said now is the time for change.
“Kaiser Permanente is not getting it. It's almost like having your oxygen turned all the way down and you're gasping for air. And you're in a space where we're saying, 'help us,' and they're walking away. That's how I feel,” Johnson-Gibson said.
The company said, as the strike happens, it will continue to take care of patients who need help.
Kaiser said its hospitals and emergency rooms will stay open. It's brought in contracted temps for critical care roles.
Non-emergency appointments may be rescheduled, and some Kaiser pharmacies may close.
Kaiser Permanante sent Denver7 a new statement Wednesday morning on the state of negotiations.
There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday.
We remain committed to reaching a new agreement that continues to provide our employees with market-leading wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable professional development opportunities.
Will Kaiser Permanente patients be able to get care if a strike occurs?
We take any threat to disrupt care for our members seriously and have plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality care should a strike occur this week.
Our medical offices and urgent care departments will remain open should a strike occur and will be staffed by our doctors, RNs, trained and experienced managers and staff, and licensed and qualified contract staff.
Our plans ensure that the urgent needs of our members and patients are the top priority. In anticipation of a possible strike, we have worked to move up many appointments, seeing patients sooner. We will proactively contact members affected by any necessary changes in our services during this strike. To meet our members’ needs, we are onboarding contracted professionals to serve in important care roles for the duration of the strike.
The latest information on facility impacts, including pharmacy, lab, and imaging services, can be found at KP.org/Co-labor [kp.org].