FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, September 4
LOS ANGELES – Dozens of healthcare workers were arrested in a civil disobedience action in front of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hollywood after a Labor Day rally and march. Healthcare workers were calling for Kaiser Permanente, Prime Healthcare, Fresenius Kidney Care, and healthcare providers across the state to urgently address the patient care crisis caused by understaffed hospitals and clinics.
The Labor Day unrest follows weeks of mounting tensions between healthcare workers and executives at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S. Kaiser’s 85,000 healthcare workers recently kicked-off a strike authorization vote over unfair labor practices, including Kaiser’s bad faith bargaining, which comes amidst workers’ simmering concerns over unsafe staffing levels. It would be the largest healthcare strike in U.S. history.
“We are burnt out, stretched thin, and fed up after years of the pandemic and chronic short staffing. Healthcare providers are failing workers and patients, and we are at crisis levels in our hospitals and medical centers,” said Datosha Williams, a service representative at Kaiser Permanente South Bay. “Our employers take in billions of dollars in profits, yet they refuse to safely staff their facilities or pay many of their workers a living wage. We are prepared to do whatever it takes, even get arrested in an act of civil disobedience, to stand up for our patients.”
Organized by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the rally and march included speeches from frontline healthcare workers and various Southern California labor leaders. Local and statewide elected officials joined them.
The Kaiser healthcare workers are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents more than 85,000 healthcare workers in seven states and the District of Columbia.
In April, the Coalition began its national bargaining process ahead of their September 30th contract expiration. 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.
Kaiser healthcare workers are the largest single-employer labor negotiations occurring in the United States.
Tensions have been rising as the workers’ contract expiration looms. In July, tens of thousands of healthcare workers picketed Kaiser hospitals across the U.S. to protest the company’s growing care crisis.
Workers say that Kaiser is committing unfair labor practices and also that understaffing is boosting Kaiser’s profits but hurting patients. In a recent survey of 33,000 employees, 2/3 of workers said they’d seen care delayed or denied due to short staffing. After three years of the COVID pandemic and chronic understaffing, healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente are calling on management to provide safe staffing levels.
Even as some frontline healthcare heroes live in their cars and patients wait longer for care, Kaiser released new financials indicating they made $3 billion in profit in just the first six months of this year.
Despite being a non-profit organization – which means it pays no income taxes on its earnings and extremely limited property taxes – Kaiser has reported more than $24 billion in profit over the last five years. Kaiser’s CEO was compensated more than $16 million in 2021, and forty-nine executives at Kaiser are compensated more than $1 million annually. Kaiser Permanente has investments of $113 billion in the US and abroad, including in fossil fuels, casinos, for-profit prisons, alcohol companies, military weapons and more.
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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is a healthcare justice union of more than 100,000 healthcare workers, patients, and healthcare activists united to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality care for all Californians, provided by valued and respected healthcare workers. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.