By: Jane Wilde
Kaiser Permanente employees began a historic 3-day walk-out on Oct. 4, 2023, outside Springfield medical offices in Springfield, Virginia. The largest ever healthcare workers strike in the U.S. sparked by staffing shortages encompassed over 75,000 workers across four states and including Washington, D.C. Additional concerns fueling the strike included demands for pay raises and safer working conditions.
As the largest healthcare provider in California, 80% of the Kaiser workforce on the picket line were from the state. Most Kaiser healthcare workers believe they work for too many patients with too little pay and recognition. An employee who has worked for Kaiser for 29 years, Sophia Calhoun, summed up the striker’s thought process by stating, “I don’t think it’s so much that we want more money; we deserve more money. We work hard, we work understaffed and we deserve to be getting paid for it. Instead, we’re getting things taken away from us.” Calhoun expressed her frustration with understaffing by saying, “People [wait] longer on hold, [and there is] not enough staff to service them with anything that they may need.” The lack of a workforce within Kaiser’s hospitals has resulted in many irritated, upset patients.
Over 75,000 workers participated in the strike, making this the largest walkout in healthcare history. The participants consisted of many primary backbones of the medical force, mainly supporting healthcare staff, including doctors, nurses, and managers. Emergency care and pharmacies remained open in consideration of patients. However, many were still affected by the strike, waiting longer for test results and postponing important surgeries and appointments.
Unfortunately, worker’s requests weren’t met as the strike ended without a resolution. Under federal law, employees are only allowed to strike for three days. While the strike is over, the issues the unions raised are far from settled. If in-person talks next week fail, union leaders say another strike will likely follow.
Working towards hiring employees and ending the staff shortage, Kaiser claims to have hired 10,000 workers in 2023. Kaiser executives will also continue hiring contractors to provide a stronger facility workforce.
If there is no significant change in their labor contract by November 1st, employees of Washington, Oregon, California, Virginia, and Washington D.C. facilities will continue with a second strike. Unlike the first strike, the second strike is to be much longer, lasting from November 1st to November 8th. This impending strike would include more participants than the previous walkout and cause turmoil in the healthcare industry across the country.
(Sources: CNN, Reuters, KCRA, New York Times, The San Fransico Standard, USA Today,