Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the chamber of the Colorado General Assembly Kyle Mullica serves in.
DENVER (KDVR) — The largest strike of health care workers is happening in states across the U.S., including right here in Colorado.
Kaiser Permanente workers in Colorado joined the more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers nationwide, calling for the company to alleviate staffing shortages and offer better wages.
Workers at the Kaiser Permanente facility on Franklin Street have been out there since Wednesday morning. While they still have not reached an agreement with their company, union workers are gaining support from some community members.
“Frontline health care workers are here for the patients. They want their patients to receive safe care, and when you can’t do that on a daily basis to the level that you know patients deserve, that can be stressful as well,” SEIU Local 105 President Stephanie Felix-Sowy said.
Kaiser Permanente responds to strike
Kaiser Permanente canceled a press availability with members of the media and issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon.
After 6 months of bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, including a marathon effort that went through last night and into today, our bargaining sessions unfortunately ended without a settlement, and the Coalition strikes began.
While we have not reached a contract settlement, we have been able to reach a number of tentative agreements in bargaining, and our offers to date address the unions’ priorities, including:
- Across-the-board wage increases in all markets over the next four years.
- Updating the Performance Sharing Plan to include a minimum payout opportunity and potential for up to a $3,750 payout.
- Offering minimum wages of $21/hour in Colorado.
- Continuing and enhancing our existing excellent health benefits and retirement income plans.
- Renewing our strong tuition assistance and training programs and increasing funding of the education trusts.
Health care worker strike gains electeds’ support
While the workers and the company still have not settled on a contract, workers are gaining the support of local lawmakers like Denver City Councilwoman Shontel Lewis and state Sen. Kyle Mullica, an emergency room nurse.
“Support of the workers, it’s easy for me,” Lewis said. “When we take good care of our employees, the folks that have the opportunity to visit this facility, they’ll get good care. And I think folks need to be taken good care of by workers, so I’m out here to let workers know if there’s ever a side I need to choose, it’s always the side of the workers.”
“We’re working on that at the Capitol too, to really build up that workforce,” Mullica said, “to try to get more nurses, more respiratory therapists, and radiology techs into the health care field. So we’re trying to do our part, but we’re out here calling Kaiser and other folks to do their part as well. Making sure these companies are taking care of their employees.”
The strike is set to last in Western states for three days, ending on Saturday morning. Workers are hoping to make more progress on a deal before then.