Hospital staffers and union organizers waved signs and banners in protest over staffing shortages at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Roseville. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

The union representing pharmacy and laboratory workers at Kaiser Permanente locations throughout Southern California said Wednesday members voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s offer and authorize a strike if a new deal can’t be reached.

Strike votes were taken by members of six United Food and Commercial Workers locals, including UFCW Local 135 in San Diego.

“Though a strike is a last resort, taking this vote gives us a powerful tool to wield at the bargaining table to help negotiate these frontline healthcare professionals the best contract possible,” said Grant Tom, secretary-treasurer of Local 135.

Union officials said members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s offer of a 1% raise annually for a total of 3% over three years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, hospitals across California have suffered from inadequate staffing, though pay also remains a key issue for union members.

The San Diego local represents over 400 pharmacy and laboratory workers, including pharmacy techs, pharmacy assistants, clinical laboratory scientists, medical laboratory technicians, and others.

The national agreement with Kaiser Permanente expired on Sept. 30, and the local agreements for pharmacy and lab expire Nov. 1 and Feb. 1, respectively.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.