Unionized registered nurses at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center walked off the job today as part of a statewide strike to protest what union officials call an effort to reduce workers’ healthcare coverage and retirement benefits.

According to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, as many as 23,000 nurses–some of whom are represented by the California Nurses Association–will be taking part in picketing at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the state. Depending on the location, the strikes were expected to last anywhere from one to three days.

At Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center at 4867 Sunset Blvd., nurses picketed from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, with the walkout continuing today and Friday, according to the union.

The union also represents mental healthcare workers, health educators, dietitians, audiologists and speech pathologists and local clinics and hospitals, and they too will strike.

Additionally, a number of other unions will take to the streets in sympathy with nurses, according to NUHW’s Leighton Woodhouse, who added that the two sides have been talking for about 1 1/2 years without any kind of substantive movement.

Union officials contend that Kaiser, a nonprofit entity, is undermining the ability of nurses to afford their own healthcare and reducing staffing while taking in billions of dollars in revenue over the last two and a half years.

“But Kaiser administrators refuse to put that enormous financial success back into improving patient care,” registered nurse LaNeta Fitzhugh said. “And now, Kaiser wants to cut workers’ benefits, too, even though Kaiser executives have eight pension plans each. It’s outrageous.”

The union contends that more than 1,000 nurses will take part in the picketing at Kaiser Los Angeles. The goal of these short labor actions, said Woodhouse is to let patients know that Kaiser is compromising care by understaffing and to pressure the company to settle.

In a statement, Kaiser officials said plans were being made to “minimize the impact on our services and on our members’ and patients’ care during and after the work stoppage.

City News Service