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Kaiser Permanente pharmacy workers to launch strike over staffing shortages

By Joelle JonesJashayla Pettigrew,

2023-10-01

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PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) — Kaiser Permanente employees in the Pacific Northwest will join thousands of healthcare workers across five states that are striking against understaffing.

In mid-September, the majority of SEIU Local 49 — a labor union based in Oregon and Southwest Washington — voted to authorize a strike if contract negotiations weren’t met by the last day of the month.

Now, the labor union is set to begin their strike on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

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Kaiser Permanente workers walk the picket line in Hillsboro, October 1, 2023 (KOIN)

“These workers deserve to be able to take care of their families, and it’s very difficult when you have unfair labor practices in the way of a fair contract,” said Miles Eshaia, the communications coordinator for UFCW Local 555.

More than 75,000 workers prep for possibility of largest health care strike in US history

Kaiser Permanente’s pharmacy employees, with labor union UFCW Local 555, began their 21-day Unfair Labor Practice strike on Sunday morning.

“We have a number of unfair labor practices that we’ve charged Kaiser with,” Eshaia said. “Some of them include the failure to disclose bargaining agreements information, direct dealing, as well as trying to dictate to the union who may serve as its representative.”

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Miles Eshaia with UFCW Local 555 talks about the strike of Kaiser Permanente pharmacy workers, October 1, 2023 (KOIN)

The strike affects the Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas, Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro and the Regional Lab Airport Way Center in Portland.

The strike comes just a few weeks after the UFCW 555 chose to break from the national coalition of Kaiser Permanente unions, which has been bargaining at the national level since April. The union said this move was in the best interest of workers.

Kaiser Permanente said the union has refused to negotiate since the split.

“That’s just not true,” Eshaia told KOIN 6 News. “We’re available, we’re ready, we want to make sure we get the best deal for our members, though, and part of that is dealing with the unfair labor practices.”

Kaiser Permanente statement

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Kaiser officials said the strike has complicated negotiations. This is their full statement:

UFCW Local 555 represents about 380 of Kaiser Permanente’s pharmacy technicians, pharmacy clerks, and pharmacy warehouse employees in Oregon and southwest Washington.

Until recently, UFCW Local 555 was part of the national Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which has been bargaining at the national level since April. A few weeks ago, UFCW decided to split from the Coalition. They have been unwilling to bargain with us since their decision to leave the Coalition and leave national bargaining. We have urged them to return to the bargaining table and are hoping they will agree to schedule a bargaining session.

Given that UFCW 555 has been unwilling to bargain with us for weeks, we feel strongly that their call for a strike is premature and unwarranted.

Our goal remains to reach an agreement with UFCW 555 that strengthens our position as a best place to work and ensures the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access. We’ve got a solid offer on the table that addresses their economic and staffing concerns.

Our top priority is caring for our members and patients. We have contingency plans in place to ensure they have access to pharmacy services during the strike.

We’re keeping our members up to date on any changes to our pharmacy operations and schedules, and we have expanded Kaiser Permanente’s network of pharmacy locations to include community pharmacies for the duration of the strike. As always, the most convenient way for our members to fill their prescriptions is to use our mail order delivery service on kp.org/pharmacy or on the Kaiser Permanente app; they’ll receive their medications in about 3-5 days at no extra cost.

Kaiser Permanente is proud to be the largest union-represented health care employer in the U.S. — with nearly 75% of our employees represented by unions. We have a long and successful history of working with labor unions, and our Labor Management Partnership is the largest and longest running such partnership in the United States.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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