Selected Kaiser Employees Will Strike for 24 Hours Starting Wednesday
National Union of Healthcare Workers says San Diego will not see pickets, but local teachers' union leader urges members to respect picket lines.
By Ken Stone
May 17, 2011
Kaiser-Permanente health-care workers will stage a 24-hour strike starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday throughout Southern California, including offices in San Diego County, union officials say.
Kaiser has hospitals and clinics in Carlsbad, La Mesa, Point Loma, Bonita, El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, San Diego, San Marcos and Vista.
About 200 San Diego employees of Kaiser-Permanente will walk off the job barring a “miracle,” a union spokesman said Tuesday.
The staffers—social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists, audiologists, health educators and dieticians—will conduct a one-day strike at Kaiser facilities around San Diego County, and throughout Southern California, said Leighton Woodhouse of the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
“It would be close to a miracle for it not to happen,” Woodhouse told City News Service.
Kaiser’s Point Loma Medical Offices will be most affected, with 52 employees not reporting to work, he said.
According to Woodhouse, the union and Kaiser disagree over staff levels and proposed cuts to health-care coverage and retirement benefits.
The company is in negotiations with three NUHW bargaining units, said Kaiser spokeswoman Mina Nguyen.
She said all facilities in San Diego County will operate normally and patients should keep their physicians appointments. However, routine nonemergency appointments to see social workers and psychologists may need to be rescheduled, she said.
Tuesday, the National Union of Healthcare Workers said: “2,500 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers throughout Southern California will go on strike for 24 hours. Our strike will be the single largest work action by NUHW members since the founding of our union. We’re telling the world the truth about Kaiser Permanente.”
Other unions were asking their members to respect picket lines at Kaiser facilities—even though NUHW said no picketing would occur in San Diego.
“If you have a non-urgent medical appointment scheduled during that 24-hour period, please consider rescheduling it,” wrote Jim Mahler, president of San Diego Local 1931 of the American Federation of Teachers. “Please honor the picket line of our brothers and sisters at Kaiser.”
Kimberly Tubbs, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente’s flagship Los Angeles Medical Center, wrote on the union website:
“It is AMAZING to me that Kaiser has been unwilling to reasonably discuss fair wages at the bargaining table. This month Kaiser reported $10 million per day in profits for the first quarter. This is the same company who wants to cut our pensions, reduce our benefits and not fairly compensate us!
Tubbs, a recovery room nurse, said she works eight-hour shifts on weekdays, and “it is my responsibility to care for patients who are coming right out of surgery as they are emerging from their anesthesia-induced sleep. This requires skilled training in Critical Care and Pediatrics. There are many complications that can arise after surgery, and as a ‘post-op’ nurse, I have to be skilled and prepared to handle any complication or emergency that comes up.
“Most days at work, I start to worry about IF I’m going to be able to leave on time around 3 in the afternoon, which is two hours before my shift ends. It is a regular occurrence that most of my fellow nurses and myself are required to stay past our shift because there isn’t anyone to take our patients.”
She argued that Kaiser can no longer claim financial hardship.
“They are surviving quite well through this economic hard times. In fact, I think they are THRIVING. Thriving to the tune of $10 million a day! I can’t really say that the nurses are thriving; in fact we’re barely surviving with the added workload and forced overtime.”
4:39pm on Wednesday, May 18, 2011
At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, building administrator Michelle Gibson said the Kaiser La Mesa primary care offices she oversees had seen no picketing, and nobody's scheduled appointment had to be canceled.