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Kaiser pharmacy workers say they will strike

Health system spokesperson says management is making contingency plans to offset work stoppage in Oregon, southwest Washington
A Kaiser Permanente pharmacy. | LYNNE TERRY/THE LUND REPORT
September 20, 2023

This article has been updated with additional reporting. 

A union representing Kaiser Permanente pharmacy technicians has announced they’re planning to walk off the job for three weeks to protest what they portray as unfair labor practices and stalled contract negotiations. 

About 1,000 pharmacy technicians and others employed at Kaiser pharmacies in Oregon and southwest Washington will strike beginning October 1, Miles Eshaia, spokesperson for Local 555 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, told The Lund Report Wednesday. The work stoppage would last through  October 21. 

Kaiser spokesperson Debbie Karman disputed the number of striking workers provided by the union. She told The Lund Report in an email that 387 employees represented by the union work in pharmacy. The remainder of the workers represented by the union work in imagining and have not declared a strike, she said. 

Workers approved the strike last week in a near-unanimous vote based on accusations that the health care consortium is  “failing to provide information regarding bargaining and grievances, attempting to directly deal with our members, and attempting to dictate to the Union who may serve as its representative,” according to a statement. 

“The number one issue at Kaiser is the lack of staffing. Workers are burning out, patients are having to wait months to receive care, and the problem is only getting worse,” UFCW Local 555 President Dan Clay said in a statement. “We were prepared to work on a deal that’s sustainable for the patients, our healthcare professionals, and the company, but Kaiser has been completely unwilling to accept the real impact of underpaying healthcare professionals and understaffing job sites.”

Karman responded with a statement stressing that Kaiser's “top priority is caring for our members and patients.” 

“Currently, our pharmacies are operating on their normal schedules and we have contingency plans in place to ensure they continue to receive safe, high-quality medical care in the event of a strike,” reads the statement. 

Those plans include expanding its network of pharmacy locations to community pharmacies that can serve members, according to the statement. 

More than 4,000 other frontline health care workers at Kaiser represented by Service Employees International Union Local 49 authorized a strike last week, though they have not yet provided the system with the required 10-day notice of a work stoppage. Nurses at Oregon Health & Science University announced earlier this week they have authorized a strike over issues of pay and staffing. 

However, neither the OHSU nurses nor the Kaiser workers represented by SEIU Local 49 have announced they are going through with a strike. 

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jakethomas2009.