Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to include a response from Kaiser Permanente on a claim made. A statement by Kaiser can be found at the bottom of the story.
DENVER (KDVR) — Thousands of healthcare workers and service employees with Kaiser Permanente are threatening to go on strike.
They are giving a 10-day notice over what they call unfair labor practices, but Kaiser Permanente said they are still negotiating.
“If you’re a Kaiser patient, you’ve probably experienced longer wait times,” Stephanie Felix-Sowy, president of the Service Employees International Union said.
Felix-Sowy said September 30th is when the contract expires between Colorado’s largest non-profit healthcare provider and its employees.
Negotiations are happening now, in California, between the SEIU and corporate officials.
“We’re having to wait three, six, nine months,” Felix-Sowy said. “At certain points in time up to a year, for essential services.”
Kaiser Permanente disputes this claim about delays in services.
SEIU said employees are overworked because there aren’t enough people to cover the needs of patients, quicker.
“The short-staffing crisis really creates a place where you’re doing two or three people’s jobs,” Felix-Sowy said.
Kaiser Permanente tells FOX31 they have hired thousands of new employees: 29,000 last year and 22,000 so far in 2023.
The health provider said it has even accelerated hiring with a goal of recruiting 10,000 new people nationwide.
“Healthcare workers are striking to protect patient care,” Felix-Sowy said.
A strike could see 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees on the picket line, 3,000 of those in Colorado alone.
Kaiser Permanente said it has enough non-union workers to sustain patient care if a strike did occur.
On the issue of wages, Kaiser Permanente said its pay is 10% above the market. Still, union reps said the negotiations will continue or a strike will happen in early October.
“We will still be working on those throughout today,” Felix-Sowy said, “late into the night if we need to and continue to commit to the process and bargain in good faith.”
The strike could take place on Oct. 4, 5 and 6 but Kaiser Permanente said they have always reached an agreement with the union and have been able to avoid strikes.
Kaiser Permanente released the following statement:
“The entire country is facing labor and staffing shortages, and we are seeing those shortages impact the health care sector, too.
Like many health care providers around the country, we continue to work through the demand for health screenings that were postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To meet our members’ needs and ensure timely access, Kaiser Permanente Colorado has taken numerous steps to increase appointment availability:
- We are actively recruiting and hiring more physicians and staff. We have open positions in Colorado right now posted on our careers website, and we are moving quickly to fill those roles.
- We also have expanded our network of community providers, enabling our members to access routine screening more quickly.“