Most Kaiser facilities are located in California, where the nonprofit company is headquartered and momentum from a summer filled with strikes and worker protests has carried over into the fall. The onslaught of labor action has spread nationally, with United Auto Workers striking at American car manufacturing companies. The health care industry, in particular, has experienced a wave of worker strife fueled by pandemic burnout and related staffing crises.
The Kaiser walkout also came as a health care minimum wage bill sat on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The proposal — a deal hammered out by health care employers and unions — would guarantee California health care workers a $25 minimum wage by 2026. It’s one of labor’s top remaining priorities from the state’s legislative session after the Democratic governor frustrated the movement by vetoing proposals that would have put strict limits on the deployment of autonomous trucks and given striking workers access to unemployment benefits.
The strike was set in motion in mid-September when the unions voted in favor of walking off the job if an agreement wasn’t reached by Sept. 30. That deadline passed without a deal, as employees sought higher staffing levels along with annual pay increases over the life of a contract.
Union officials on Wednesday reported that they’d reached tentative agreements on some benefits issues but that other sticking points remained. Costa on Friday declined to comment on the details of negotiations.
Hospitals and clinics remained open throughout the work freeze as physicians and registered nurses remained on the job, though some services were reportedly slowed. The first employees to return to work will start shifts at 6 a.m. Saturday.