(CMR) Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers took to picket lines in multiple states on Wednesday, launching a massive three-day strike that could cause delays at its hospitals and clinics that serve nearly 13 million Americans.
According to the Associated Press, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing about 85,000 of the health system’s employees nationally, approved the strike in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Some 75,000 people were expected to participate in the pickets.
Most of the facilities are in California, where scores of workers picketed outside hospitals.
“Kaiser has not been bargaining with us in good faith, and so it's pushing us to come out here and strike. We want to be inside just taking care of our patients,” Jacquelyn Duley, a radiologic technologist among the hundreds of picketers, told AP News.
AP reported that the California-based nonprofit company said its 39 hospitals, including emergency rooms, will remain open. Doctors are not participating, and Kaiser said it was bringing in thousands of temporary workers to fill the gaps. Still, appointments and non-urgent procedures could be pushed back.
The strikers include licensed vocational nurses, home health aides, ultrasound sonographers, and technicians in the radiology, X-ray, surgical, pharmacy and emergency departments.
Brittany Everidge, a ward clerk transcriber in the medical center's maternal child health department, was among those on the picket line. She said that because of staffing shortages, pregnant people in active labor can be stuck for hours to be checked in. Other times, too few transcribers can lead to delays in creating and updating charts for new babies.
“We don't ever want to be in a situation where the nurses have to do our job,” she said.
According to AP, the strike comes in a year when there have been work stoppages within multiple industries, including transportation, entertainment, and hospitality.
At least 453,000 workers have participated in 312 strikes in the U.S. this year, according to Johnnie Kallas, a Ph.D. candidate and the project director of Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker. That figure includes Kaiser workers.