Kaiser workers go on strike around Bay Area: Five things to know

Kaiser workers go on strike around Bay Area: Five things to know

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers in the Bay Area were set to stop work early Wednesday morning in a huge strike against the health care giant that is expected to last three days and affect patient care. Picket lines were slated to go up at more than a dozen Kaiser medical centers in the region, with the nationwide strike to begin at 6 a.m.

Some 75,000 Kaiser workers across the U.S. — including about 23,000 in the Bay Area — were set to strike after their contract expired Sept. 30 and unions and the company failed to resolve disputes over wages and other issues.

1. Kaiser facilities will remain open 

Kaiser said it would keep all hospitals and emergency departments open, but there may be longer wait times. “Our facilities will continue to be staffed by our physicians, trained and experienced managers, and staff,” Kaiser said this week, adding that it may bring on “professionals contracted to serve in critical care roles specifically for the duration of a strike.”

2. Some Kaiser patients may need to reschedule appointments 

Kaiser said before the strike that it had plans in place to make sure patients receive “safe, high-quality care.” But Kaiser said this week it may need to reschedule “some non-urgent appointments and procedures,” and that it would contact affected patients in advance.

3. Kaiser pharmacies will be impacted 

Kaiser advised its patients to order medications by mail at kp.org/pharmacy or by calling, in Northern California, 1-888-218-6245. Inpatient pharmacies will stay open. Kaiser said it would expand its network to include “community pharmacies that can serve our members during a strike and mitigate any closure of our outpatient pharmacies.”

4. Workers are picketing across the Bay Area 

The union coalition said Wednesday it would set up picket lines at Kaiser Medical Centers in San Jose; Oakland; Fremont; Redwood City; Santa Clara; Antioch; Richmond; San Francisco; South San Francisco; San Leandro; Walnut Creek; Vallejo; and Santa Rosa.

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5. Kaiser and the unions are at odds over wages and more

Unions representing workers claim Kaiser has engaged in unfair labor practices and understaffs its facilities, potentially leading to dangerously long wait times, mistakes in diagnosis and patient neglect. The unions also want raises of about 6% a year for four years, and say Kaiser’s raise offer over the weekend of 4% for two years and 3% for the following two years for Northern California workers fell short. Kaiser said Sunday in a news release that it leads in total compensation everywhere it operates, and has offered a $23 minimum wage starting next year for California workers. The company said it has hired more than 50,000 workers in the last two years nationally, including 9,800 into jobs represented by the unions planning to strike.