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As Third Wave Crashes Over U.S., Frontline Kaiser Workers Will Hold National Day of Actions to Honor Healthcare Heroes

December 3, 2020 GMT
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Frontline Kaiser healthcare workers
1 of 2
Frontline Kaiser healthcare workers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As a third COVID wave crashes over the U.S., frontline Kaiser Permanente workers will hold a national day of actions to honor the sacrifices of healthcare heroes on December 10. This holiday season many Kaiser workers will leave their families at home to provide compassionate care to their communities. They say Kaiser executives need to remember the spirit of the holidays and give back to their workforce in order to recognize their commitment and retain staff for safe, quality care.

As an essential part of the nation’s response to the out-of-control health crisis, many Kaiser workers have been exposed to or infected by the coronavirus, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Meanwhile, Kaiser has made billions in profits and has a long list of executives--many of whom are working safely from their homes or offices--that are making over a million dollars a year each in total compensation.1

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“In the lab we’re processing COVID samples and seeing hundreds of patients a day,” said Paula Coleman, a clinical laboratory assistant at Kaiser Permanente Englewood Medical Offices in Colorado and a member of SEIU Local 105. “We take great pride in our work, and we love our patients with all of our hearts. But we also have a feeling of dread as we put our lives on the line every day during the pandemic. Administrators seem to have forgotten that we’re the backbone of Kaiser, from the lab to nurses, nursing assistants, techs, environmental services, dietary workers and clerks. We’re the ones in the trenches doing the jobs no one else wants to do. We need management to recognize and acknowledge that in order for Kaiser to thrive, frontline workers and our families must thrive as well.”

The actions will take place throughout California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Washington State. In Oregon and D.C., frontline workers will be holding illuminated signs that say “Honor Kaiser Heroes” during evening actions in front of Kaiser facilities. In other states, caregivers will be having a simultaneous nationwide moment of silence and creating memorials to fallen colleagues.

During the actions, workers will call for a “Hero Bonus” to recognize and retain staff. Kaiser can readily afford this, as the corporation has over $44 billion in cash and investments2 and made $4.5 billion in profits in the second quarter of 2020 alone.3 In the first half of 2020, Kaiser’s patient membership grew by 183,000 to a total of 12.4 million.4 In 2019, Kaiser’s profits nearly tripled from the previous year to $7.4 billion . 5

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“Being a nurse gives me a deep sense of fulfillment because I get to care for the same community my family and I live in,” said Cenetra Pickens, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente Tacoma Medical Center in Washington State and a member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “I put on a smile every day for my patients, but it’s been really scary providing care during the pandemic because there’s so much uncertainty. When I get home, I change out of my scrubs in the garage and then take a shower because I don’t want my two young children or husband to catch the virus. Kaiser has been able to make billions in profits recently, which is a true testament to the blood, sweat and tears of Kaiser caregivers. Executives in the boardrooms aren’t risking their lives and their families’ lives on the front lines like we are. Kaiser needs to give back to their workforce to retain qualified staff and acknowledge our sacrifices, not just in words but in tangible action.”

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents 85,000 caregivers, including lab workers, nurses, therapists, nursing assistants, techs, pharmacy workers, environmental service workers, clerical workers, dietary workers and other vital roles. Many workers in lower-wage job classifications, who are disproportionately women and people of color, have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic.

“I treat up to 25 children a day, and always try to put myself in their shoes to make sure they feel calm, comfortable and welcome,” said Shanequa Green, a pediatric clinical assistant at Alexandria Kaiser Center in Virginia and a member of OPEIU Local 2. “As healthcare workers we took an oath to serve and care for our patients and communities. But we’re wrestling with our own fears and anxieties about the virus. I have four kids at home, and all of them are at high risk because of health issues. Recently a young coworker died of COVID, and Kaiser didn’t have any sort of memorial or acknowledgement of her decade of service. Many executives are sitting safely behind a computer, while we’re putting our lives on the line every day caring for patients. Because of our commitment, Kaiser has been able to have massive growth and financial success. We urgently need Kaiser to recognize the sacrifices and hardships our families have endured.”

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents over 85,000 workers throughout California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Washington State. Their mission is to advocate for the highest quality patient care and good union jobs for local communities. For a full description go to UnionCoalition.org.

1 https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/941340523
2 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Subsidiaries and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Subsidiaries second quarter 2020 unaudited financial results.
3 https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/kaiser-s-net-income-more-than-doubles-to-4-5b-in-q2.html
4 https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2020/08/07/kaiser-permanente.html#:~:text=In%20the%20last%20six%20months,for%20potential%20Covid%2D19%20patients.
5 https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/our-story/news/announcements/2019-kaiser-foundation-health-plan-hospitals-financial-results

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SOURCE Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, AFL-CIO