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Second Kaiser Permanente strike looms in Colorado amid resumed negotiations

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Lindsey Toomer

(Colorado Newsline) Negotiations between Kaiser Permanente and union leadership will resume this week after health care workers went on strike for three days last week, with potential for another strike in early November.

In Colorado, 3,000 health care workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 105 went on strike across nearly 30 clinics throughout the Front Range. Medical assistants, patient registration and call center staff, schedulers, lab and imagery technicians and others left their jobs for the picket lines as their demands have yet to be fulfilled. 

SEIU Local 105 members and a coalition of other unions from around the country are asking for higher wages and improved working conditions for their members while negotiating with Kaiser for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The coalition of unions sent Kaiser official notice this week of another potential strike that would last from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8 as employees remain concerned about unsafe staffing levels and other workplace issues. 

“For months, Kaiser executives failed to listen to the feedback from frontline healthcare workers about the need for executives to follow the law in negotiations and about the impacts that the Kaiser short staffing is having on patients,” Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, said in a statement. “This week, Kaiser executives will have another opportunity to listen to frontline staff, to follow the law in formal discussions, and to begin investing in ways that will solve the Kaiser short staffing crisis.” 

While the ultimate goal is to have a completed contract as soon as possible, health care workers submitted the legal notice they are required to file for a strike in case no additional progress is made. Another contract for a group of Kaiser employees in Seattle expires at the end of October, and the Nov. 1 date for the next strike would include an additional 3,000 workers from that area as well. 

“We are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on October 12 and Kaiser Permanente remains committed to reaching an agreement that is good for our employees, our members, and our organization, and we will continue to bargain in good faith with the Coalition,” Andrew Sorensen, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, said in an email.

Across the country, 75,000 Kaiser staff members in Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Maryland left the job for the three-day strike, the largest health care strike in U.S. history.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.