Kaiser Permanente Colorado and the union representing almost half of its employees didn’t reach a deal over the weekend, but have agreed to continue talking ahead of a possible strike beginning Wednesday.
The contract between a coalition of unions and Kaiser Permanente divisions around the country expired Saturday. Earlier in September, the unions announced they could go on strike from Oct. 4 to 6 if they don’t reach a new contract.
In Colorado, that would mean about 3,000 technicians, office workers and licensed practical nurses affiliated with Service Employees International Union Local 105 could walk off the job for three days this week. About 6,800 people work at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, which has roughly 500,000 members and runs 33 medical offices in the state.
Nationwide, about 75,000 workers could go on strike, with walkouts also planned in California, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. It would be the largest strike by health care workers in U.S. history.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado has said it will continue to offer care during a strike, if one occurs. While it hasn’t specified how it will do that, the most likely route is by hiring temporary workers, who typically earn significantly more than permanent staff.
In a statement released Saturday, Kaiser Permanente said it had reached agreement with the unions on the use of temporary staff, tracking vacancies, dispute resolution and travel for continuing education.
Wages remain a sticking point. It’s not clear if concerns about staffing have been resolved; Local 105 has continued to say its members felt their clinics were understaffed, while Kaiser Permanente Colorado said an agreement already had been reached at the national level to hire thousands of new workers.
About 99% of Local 105 members who participated in a late August vote were in favor of authorizing a strike.
A different union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, also came close to going on strike at Kaiser Permanente Colorado in 2021. That dispute also involved unions in multiple states. The two sides reached a deal on wages, with an agreement to increase hiring.