More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C. plan to strike Wednesday through the end of the week.
One of the largest picket lines is expected in Oakland, California, where Kaiser Permanente is headquartered. In total, health care workers from eight different unions are scheduled to stop working.
Their contract expired over the weekend and both sides have yet to settle on new terms. The clock is running out for a contract agreement for tens of thousands of health care workers in five states.
"I am not confident that a deal will happen," said Kristynn Bennett, a patient at Kaiser Permanente.
"Kaiser refuses to come to the table to bargain with us," said Micheal Ramey, an ultrasound technician.
"The strike is just a culmination of an inability to care for patients. They're fighting for what they need to take care of themselves, so that they can keep taking care of us," said Kristynn Bennett, a patient at Kaiser Permanente.
Nurses, lab techs, pharmacists, X-ray techs, and food and janitorial workers are among those who will strike. At the heart of the disagreements are wages, benefits and staffing.
In a statement, Kaiser Permanente said, "a strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified."
The nonprofit is one of the nation's biggest health providers, with more than 12 million patients a year. Kaiser says their hospitals and ERs will stay open. They've brought in contracted temps for critical care roles.
Non-emergency appointments may be rescheduled and some Kaiser Pharmacies in their medical offices may close.
Health care labor relations expert John August is the former head of the coalition of Kaiser Permanente unions. He says inflation and the pandemic have worsened the already growing health care crisis in the U.S.
"We need kind of a national discussion about the direction of health care. So before that happens, if it ever does, there's going to be a lot more activity like this," said August.
Workers would begin picketing Wednesday at 6 a.m., starting with 180 pharmacists and eye doctors in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
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