Press Release for October 1, 2021
Bryant de Venecia
Cell Phone: (808) 546-0024
Kaiser Permanente workers to vote on whether to authorize strike
Nearly 2,000 UNITE HERE Local 5 members will join over 40,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers across the nation preparing to strike after months of failed negotiations
(Hawaii) – UNITE HERE Local 5 members at Kaiser Permanente will vote on whether to authorize a strike. The contract between the union and the company expired on September 30, 2021—impacting nearly 2,000 health care workers in Hawaii. They will join more than 40,000 workers across the country gearing up to strike against the health care company.
Daniel Kerwin of Local 5 Negotiations Team stated, “Workers on the frontline at Kaiser Permanente, like many healthcare workers during this pandemic, are performing heroic duty. While they bravely fought the pandemic and put the patients first—often to the point of mental and physical exhaustion—Kaiser decided to offer Hawaii’s workers the lowest wage increase in the country and ignore their staffing concerns. Instead of treating their workers like heroes, they are treating them like zeroes.”
Kaiser Permanente has been a big winner financially during the pandemic, growing their net worth to over $44 billion. In 2020, the company made $2.2 billion in operating profit, and more than $6 billion in net income. Kaiser Permanente did so well despite COVID-19 that they rejected $500 million in federal CARES Act money to support its operations. Membership grew by 17% nationally since 2015; 5% in Hawaii.
Regardless of all the wealth Kaiser has accrued, the company is proposing a divisive two-tier wage system that offers only 1% wage increases to current employees, and much lower pay for new hires. UNITE HERE Local 5 and the Alliance of Healthcare Unions maintain that a two-tier wage proposal would exacerbate the already-existing crisis in staffing and worker shortages. Health care workers are reporting exhaustion and burn-out as they continue to provide patient care while COVID-19 surges.
Flor Malano, a Cardiac Monitor Technician at Kaiser Moanalua shared, “I’ve been at Kaiser Permanente for 24 years and this is the worst instance of short-staffing, which is even more difficult because of the pandemic. We are burnt out and tired; no one wants to pick up extra shifts anymore. Kaiser needs to do more to retain workers by offering good wages and benefits and addressing our short-staffing issues.”
Alexsis Crowell, an MA at the Honolulu Clinic Primary Care department stated, “Kaiser Permanente needs to provide fair wages and address staffing problems. We are constantly exhausted from our job; we feel like there’s not enough help. Kaiser needs to have our back because they always say we’re ʻohana, but I don’t feel like they’re treating us like family.”
UNITE HERE Local 5 represents nearly 2,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente. Local 5 is a part of the Alliance of Health Care Unions, which represents over 50,000 members across hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area where Kaiser Permanente has a presence.
Local 5 represents approximately 12,000 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.unitehere5.org.
# # #