Over 80,000 workers employed by the Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization are taking a strike vote this week. Nurses, x-ray technicians, phone operators, janitors and other workers, belonging to eleven different unions (under the umbrella Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions), are demanding higher wages, decent health benefits and increased staffing.

Kaiser is the largest managed healthcare organization in the US, with 12 million members in nine states and Washington, DC, and 217,000 employees. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals had $79.7 billion in operating revenues in 2018.

Kaiser workers in California point out that emergency rooms are overcrowded, putting patients at risk, and that they are forced to perform two or three jobs.

Voting in the states where Kaiser operates, California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia will take place during the month of August and into September.

The union coalition has offered no explanation of why it will take six weeks for all workers to vote. If a strike were to take place in all the Kaiser clinics and hospitals, it would occur in October, two months after the voting began.

A walkout against the mammoth Kaiser Permanente system would involve the most workers since the 1997 United Parcel strike by 197,000 workers. […]