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Kaiser Permanente workers vote to authorize a strike, setting the stage for what could be the largest healthcare strike in US history

A Kaiser Permanente medical center.
Nearly 60,000 Kaiser Permanente workers voted to authorize a strike.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Last month, 85,000 Kaiser Permanente employees launched a strike authorization vote.

  • This week, nearly 60,000 of them — mostly in California — voted yes to a strike.

  • Those employees will strike if an agreement isn't reached with Kaiser Permanente by September 30.

Over the last several weeks, 85,000 healthcare workers across the United States have been voting on whether or not to authorize a strike.

Today, about 60,000 of them have so far voted "Yes," according to a statement from SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. The rest of the votes are expected in the coming days.

They all work for Kaiser Permanente, a private healthcare company with hundreds of facilities across the country — including 39 hospitals and 715 medical offices — serving more than 12 million people.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents workers in 95% of these facilities, meaning more than 11 million people who rely on Kaiser Permanente could be affected.

A strike hinges on whether or not the employees can reach a deal with Kaiser Permanente by September 30. If they fail and the workers walkout, it would be the largest healthcare strike in US history.

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West is a member of the Coalition located in California, which by itself represents about 70% of the members of the Coalition.

Kaiser Permanente healthcare employees in the Coalition in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have also voted to authorize the strike.

This means the overwhelming majority of unionized Kaiser Permanente healthcare employees will strike, even as voting continues in three more states and Washington, DC.

Wayne Davis, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, says the company is "confident" they will reach an agreement with the union ahead of September 30.

"We have two more bargaining sessions scheduled for next week," Davis wrote to Insider. "Our priority is to reach an agreement that ensures we can continue to provide market-competitive pay and outstanding benefits."

The 85,000 members of the Coalition make up roughly 40% of all Kaiser Permanente employees across seven states and Washington, DC. They serve in a wide range of roles, including as registered nurses, admissions staff, phlebotomists, surgery assistants, and more, Insider previously reported.

A strike could halt service at some of Kaiser Permanente's 39 hospitals, Keven Dardon, a patient access representative for a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oregon and a bargaining team representative for his union, SEIU Local 49, previously told Insider.

Kaiser Permanente has "comprehensive plans to ensure continued access to needed health care service" if a strike occurs, Davis wrote.

Short-staffing is the No. 1 concern for Kaiser Permanente employees. Staffing shortages harms both patients and employees, Miriam De La Paz, union organizer and a Kaiser Permanente employee of almost 20 years, previously told Insider.

Davis said Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition are working together to accelerate hiring, setting a goal to hire 10,000 new employees for Coalition-represented roles by the end of the year.

"Kaiser Permanente's efforts to date have resulted in nearly 9,000 positions filled, and we are aggressively recruiting to fill more," Davis wrote. "About 96% of candidates for Coalition-represented positions accept our employment offers — significantly above the industry average."

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

Read the original article on Business Insider