A labor union representing 36,000 Kaiser Permanente workers is planning a one-day walkout Thursday in support of an International Union of Operating Engineers local in northern California that has been on strike since September.
The sympathy strike, which will begin at 7 a.m. P.T, will take place at 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities in northern California and will involve optometrists, clinical laboratory scientists, respiratory and x-ray technicians, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, medical assistants and housekeepers, among others represented by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, a news release said.
"We voted by a 97% margin in support of a sympathy strike with the engineers of Local 39 to help them achieve a fair contract. We understand how disrespected they feel by Kaiser's unfair labor practices," Georgette Bradford, an ultrasound technologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Sacramento, said in a news release. "We see it every day when there's not enough staff in our units to care for patients safely. Kaiser is putting its drive for profits over people, to the detriment of our patients and co-workers."
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Kaiser Permanente said it continues to bargain in good faith with the Local 39 Operating Engineers, as well as with the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and is confident it "will reach agreements with these unions very soon." The health system early Monday reached a tentative agreement with the Guild for Professional Pharmacists in northern California for a three-year contract, canceling a strike that was set to begin that day.
"As always, our first priority is our members and patients, and we have taken steps to ensure they will continue to receive high-quality, safe care and service should these strikes take place," Kaiser Permanente said in a written statement.
SEIU-UHW will join other unions, including the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29 and Engineers and Scientists of California Local 20, in the one-day strike. NUHW is planning a one-day strike Friday.
"We're embarrassed that Kaiser has dragged the engineers strike on for 8 weeks," Kundra Vaughn, a pharmacy technician at Kaiser Oakland Medical Center and an OPEIU Local 29 member, said in a news release. "Kaiser is supposed to be the labor-friendly health plan. They have lost their way."
The walkout vote comes two days after Kaiser Permanente reached a deal with the Alliance of Health Care Unions, a coalition of 21 labor organizations including United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, Hawaii Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, to avoid a 50,000-strong strike that had been set for Monday.