One of the more head-turning stories of “Striketober” hails from the saga of Kaiser Permanente. As one of the biggest healthcare employers in the U.S., Kaiser’s staffing shortages hold far-reaching implications, not only to the conglomerate’s bottom line but also toward a potentially crippled hospital system. Also, Kaiser’s particular situation involves a vicious cycle: Workers shortages lead to threats for strikes, which lead to more worker shortages, leading to more rumbling about strikes, and so on. All the while, overextended medical workers continue to claim deteriorating working conditions and inadequate pay.
All signs pointed toward 32,000 more Kaiser workers (including pharmacists, nurses, and physicians assistants) planning to strike across the U.S. on November 15. In a surprise development, Kaiser narrowly averted this strike over the weekend while hammering out a tentative multi-year deal with the Alliance of Health Care Unions. This prompted optimism in several states, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Georgia, but that sigh of relief might be premature for this reason: a gathering of 50,000 different Kaiser medical workers in Northern Carolina now plan to walk off the job on Nov. 18 as part of a sympathy strike to support Local 39 stationary engineers (whose current strike recently passed the two month mark).
In other words, the Kaiser Permanente labor issues aren’t over yet (and this week, two of their Northern California hospitals diverted ambulances as various strikes continue), which sums up the ongoing situation throughout the healthcare industry.