Rehabilitation therapists in the Baltimore-Washington region voted in favor of authorizing an unfair labor practice strike only days before a separate nationwide strike is planned at the health care giant
LANDOVER, Md. (October 3, 2023) – A group of Kaiser Permanente rehabilitation therapists in the Baltimore-Washington region voted 88–11 in favor of authorizing an unfair labor practice strike. Voting took place electronically on Monday and results were released publicly this morning. The workers are not on strike at the moment, however, Monday’s vote empowers the union to call for a strike at a time of its choosing.
“It is our hope that as a result of this vote, coupled with the ongoing work stoppages by other unions over similar issues, Kaiser Permanente comes to its senses and starts bargaining in good faith,” said Mara Levy from the union’s bargaining committee, who has worked as an occupational therapist at Kaiser Permanente for seven years. “But if not, we’re prepared to walk off the job and do whatever we have to do to get management to start taking us seriously.”
The group of approximately 80 therapists work at a dozen facilities in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia unionized in April and have been negotiating their first collective bargaining agreement since then. They are members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), represented by UFCW Local 400 in the DMV area and UFCW Local 27 in the Baltimore region. In addition to these therapists, both local unions represent approximately 2,000 nurses and other healthcare workers at Kaiser as well.
If the union calls for a strike, it could spread well beyond the 80 workers who voted on Monday to authorize a work stoppage. The other 2,000 other health care professionals in the region represented by both UFCW local unions could also walk off the job in what’s known as a “sympathy strike,” because their union contracts allow them to honor picket lines in the event other UFCW workers are on strike.
In a separate job action by workers represented by other unions, 75,000 other unionized Kaiser Permanente health care workers will hold a three-day strike October 4-7 that organizers claim will be the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history.
The strike authorization vote comes after months of stalled contract talks with Kaiser Permanente representatives, who the union has accused of slow-walking negotiations. The company canceled three scheduled bargaining sessions and took more than a month to provide responses to the union’s proposals. In March, the union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company over its failure to bargain in good faith and provide information to union negotiators, in violation of federal law. In a recent bargaining update to members announcing the strike vote, the union described both parties as “far apart on key issues” including wages and retirement benefits.
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 is led by President Mark Federici and represents 35,000 members working in the grocery, retail, health care, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. www.ufcw400.org
United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 represents more than 20,000 hard-working men and women in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in grocery and retail, pharmacy, food processing, chemical processing, meatpacking, manufacturing, cannabis, gaming, and public sectors. www.ufcw27.org