The California Nurses Association struck Kaiser Permanente's hospitals and clinics in Northern California for one day last week, to press the point that Kaiser's contract proposal doesn't address their demands.
On April 16, roughly 7,500 nurses stayed away from work and marched in picket lines at 45 Kaiser facilities. With advance notice Kaiser had moved patients out of hospitals, rescheduled appointments and staffed to meet emergencies and urgent-care requirements. A few extra personnel were brought in from elsewhere.
The nurses' union contract with Kaiser expired Jan. 30. Kaiser has offered the nurses a six-year contract that reduces nurses' wages a little each year. The nurses have yet to offer a counterproposal.
Kaiser maintains the key issue in the labor dispute is economics. It says its registered nurses, who earn an average of $62,000 per year, are significantly overpaid in some areas.
The CNA maintains the issue is declining standards of care. It says patients are dying because Kaiser has trimmed staffing and curtailed services.
Kaiser has joined "the race to the bottom" of healthcare in California, the CNA claims.
"The nurses are leading the race to the bottom of the consumer's pocketbook for their own interest," countered Kaiser spokesman Tom Debley.
If the public relations missiles both sides are launching are any indication, Kaiser and the CNA are digging in for a long fight.