WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement in support of 3,400 AFT nurses and health professionals across Oregon and Washington state who are among the 32,000 Kaiser workers set to strike nationwide on November 15. Weingarten will travel to Portland Monday to join members on the picket line:
“The Kaiser healthcare heroes risked it all to help patients and families on the frontlines of COVID-19—and in response, their employer decided to punish rather than celebrate them. Even as the pandemic begins to ebb, Kaiser workers remain short-staffed and just as exhausted and besieged as they were in the virus’ darkest days. They are tired and fed up, but they know that until their employer’s greed is overcome, patient care will continue to suffer.
“Make no mistake: If Kaiser succeeds in lowering the bar here, it will erode wages and conditions everywhere. The contracts and collaboration at Kaiser at the national and local levels have historically been the standard, but that standard has eroded, particularly in the Northwest. That’s why a two-tier wage structure, a 2 percent cumulative wage increase and a head-in-the-sand approach to staffing are not only a slap in the face but a toxic brew that will ensure thousands of desperately needed frontline positions remain permanently unfilled.
“Kaiser’s profits are riding high: The company is so financially strong that management turned down $500 million in COVID-19 relief money and had a higher profit rate than Amazon last year. But it refuses to acknowledge and reward the workers who made those earnings possible.
“Instead of investing in its most important asset, Kaiser is putting a match to their dignity and respect. That is why workers are striking and why the AFT and the entire U.S. labor movement is standing shoulder to shoulder to defend them until they win the justice they deserve.”