Kaiser Permanent says the company's bargaining teams are available "24/7 to continue bargaining" with union representatives until a "fair and equitable agreement" is reached.
That was a statement on Tuesday night as the deadline approached to reach a deal before union members went on a strike. More than 75,000 employees at the healthcare giant are expected to walk out Wednesday morning if a deal isn't reached.
Kaiser said "We remain optimistic that there is still time to find agreement before any of the work stoppages called by the Coalition unions begin at 6am on Wednesday."
John August, Director of Healthcare Labor Relations at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says that negotiations should not be focused on Kaiser's lack of resources. He says the money is there, it is just mismanaged.
Medical debt has become a leading cause of bankruptcyin the United States with skyrocketing costs year over year.
Scripps News asked if it would be acceptable in negotiations to just say "we don't have the money?"
"No, nor should it," said August.
"The money in healthcare is essentially misspent," August said. "It's misspent on too much administrative cost. In many cases too much profit. And it's not going into really building the health systems that we need to manage chronic conditions, which is really the biggest cause of health problems in the United States."
As Scripps News reported, one of the largest picket lines was expected in Oakland, California, where Kaiser Permanente is headquartered.
In total, health care workers from eight different unions were scheduled to go on strike and stop working. Their contract expired over the weekend and both sides were not able to settle on new terms by late on Tuesday.
The strikes were planned for at least five states.
Nurses, lab techs, pharmacists, X-ray techs, and food and janitorial workers were among those who planned to strike. At the heart of the disagreements are wages, benefits and staffing.
In a statement, Kaiser Permanente said, "a strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified."
"All across the country, you have millions of healthcare workers outside of Kaiser Permanente who are struggling, and at Kaiser Permanente, where they actually do better than most places, it's still very difficult," said August.
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