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Thousands of healthcare workers call on Kaiser to increase wages, staffing

Thousands of healthcare workers across California decided to use this Labor Day to send a message to one of the state’s medical giants.

They’re calling on Kaiser to come to the negotiating table with a promise of a lot more pay, and higher staffing. 

Over a thousand SEIU United Healthcare workers took to the streets of Oakland in protest and they’re ready to trigger the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history.  

“This is the day for the little people like me,” said Algera Bizzle-Jones, a Kaiser worker from Sacramento. “This is the day to show people without us you don’t exist. Without us, we make the money, we are the ones who make these corporations run.”

The frontline workers say they are struggling to make ends meet, are burned out from the pandemic, and are tired of understaffed hospitals and clinics creating an unsafe environment for staff and patients. 

“Being able to be seen in the ER quickly, being able to get an appointment with their doctor quickly, a lot of those things that are just basic healthcare needs that our community are not being met correctly,” said Jimmie Morris of Kaiser Manteca.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined workers demanding a better contract as they marched around Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center. Other elected officials, including Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and assemblymember Mia Bonta, also showed their support. 

“It’s a very simple equation. In order to have strong patient care, you need to be able to have workers that are able to feel secure in their jobs and to make sure they are receiving a $25 an hour wage, a living wage,” said Bonta.  

The union is asking for a 7% increase in pay to keep up with cost of living for all workers nationwide.

“We are Kaiser workers and most of us are working two or three jobs. We are unable to survive and we are frontline employees,” said Babu Prasad, a Kaiser worker running for San Jose City Council. 

“If you feel like we are healthcare heroes, if you feel like we make this company, pay us what we are worth,” said Morris.

In a statement, Kaiser says they are leaders in employee wages, adding they hired over 29,000 new employees last year and will exceed that number this year. 

The healthcare giant also said a 7% wage increase nationally is simply not viable. 

“We intend to provide all coalition employees with wage increases. We simply cannot endorse a single national approach to determining wages and ignore local market conditions,” said Kaiser in a statement.

SEIU represents 58,000 of the 68,000 Kaiser employees that are preparing to go on strike if a deal is not made by the end of this month. 

Kaiser officials say they are confident they will be able to agree on a contract by the Sept. 30 deadline.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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