On Labor Day, dozens of healthcare workers were arrested in LA outside a Kaiser Permanente facility. Their crime? Demanding safer staffing levels in hospitals. And guess what? They’re preparing for what could be the biggest healthcare strike in U.S. history.
We’re not just talking about a handful of fed-up healthcare workers. Late last month, a whopping 85,000 employees represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions started voting on whether they’re going to strike. Why? Because Kaiser Permanente has allegedly been playing dirty during contract negotiations, with the current contract expiring at the end of this month.
Datosha Williams, who works at Kaiser Permanente South Bay, spells it out: “We are burnt out, stretched thin, and fed up.” Amen, sister! She goes on to say that healthcare providers are letting both workers and patients down in a big way, all while raking in billions of dollars in profits. Just to give you some perspective, Kaiser reported a net income of nearly $3.3 billion in just the first half of 2023. And their CEO? A cool $16 million in 2021.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions takes it a step further, stating that the hospital system has a staggering $113 billion invested in—wait for it—fossil fuels, casinos, for-profit prisons, alcohol companies, military weapons, and more. You gotta wonder: Where are the investments in healthcare workers and patients?
Jessica Cruz, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, pulls no punches: “We have healthcare employees leaving left and right, and we have corporate greed that is trying to pretend that this staffing shortage is not real.” Cruz was among the workers arrested during the Labor Day protest because, in her words, “this crisis is real.”
In a recent survey of tens of thousands of healthcare workers in California, 83% reported understaffing in their departments. More than 40% admitted feeling pressured to neglect safety protocols and skip meals due to short staffing. That’s not healthcare, that’s a ticking time bomb.
Paula Coleman, who works at a Kaiser facility in Colorado, makes it plain: “It’s heartbreaking to see our patients suffer from long wait times for the care they need, all because Kaiser won’t put patient and worker safety first.”
So, the question is: What are you going to do about it? We’ve got healthcare workers willing to get arrested to bring attention to this issue. They’re preparing to strike if things don’t change. It’s high time we stand in solidarity with them. Write to your local representatives, tweet, share this story far and wide, and let’s force a sea change in how healthcare workers and patients are treated in this country.