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75,000 Kaiser Permanente Unionized Employees Launch Historic Strike Over Pay and Staffing Concerns It's the largest healthcare worker strike in the United States, affecting 40% of Kaiser Permanente's workforce across multiple states and the District of Columbia.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • The strike was initiated on Wednesday due to the expiration of union contracts on September 30, with employees demanding improved pay and benefits.
  • Workers are seeking resolution for staffing disputes, citing safety concerns and burnout caused by understaffing.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On Wednesday, more than 75,000 unionized employees of nonprofit health provider Kaiser Permanente initiated the largest healthcare worker strike in the country's history, CNN reported. The strike is scheduled to continue until Saturday.

The 75,000 employees are represented by eight unions across five states (Washington, Virginia, Colorado, California, Oregon, and the District of Columbia) and account for 40% of Kaiser Permanente's workforce.

The employees on the picket line include nurses, dietary workers, receptionists, optometrists, and pharmacists. The strike was prompted by the expiration of union contracts on September 30. Negotiations with Kaiser continued up until the strike's commencement, but didn't reach a resolution, James Santos, a field coordinator for the coalition of Kaiser unions in Virginia, told CNN.

The workers are fighting for better pay and benefits, as well as looking to resolve disputes over staffing levels.

Striking Kaiser Permanente workers march in front of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center on Wednesday in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan | Getty Images.

The issue of understaffing has led to safety concerns and burnout, Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, told CNBC.

"We continue to have front-line health-care workers who are burnt out and stretched to the max and leaving the industry," Lucas told the outlet. "We have folks getting injured on the job because they're trying to do too much and see too many people and work too quickly. It's not a sustainable situation."

The strike is temporary, and employees plan to return to work on October 7, unless a further strike is called in November if no agreement is reached, per CNN.

Entrepreneur has reached out to Kaiser Permanente for comment.

Kaiser Permanente operates under a different model from traditional fee-for-service healthcare providers — where members pay dues to access Kaiser's services, whereas for-profit providers charge a fee per each visit or service. While the strike may affect some patient care, the organization has taken precautions to minimize disruptions.

"Our hospitals and emergency departments will remain open. Our facilities will continue to be staffed by our physicians, trained and experienced managers, and staff, and in some cases we will augment with contingent workers," Kaiser Permanente told CNN in a statement.

Related: After Losing Work in the Writer's Strike, He Turned His 'Weird Niche Hobby' Into a Side Hustle That Brings in Hundreds of Dollars Per Sale

Madeline Garfinkle

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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