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Kaiser workers on strike

Statewide work stoppage expected to last 24 hours
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Beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Kaiser Permanente optical workers and behavioral health employees went on a statewide strike expected to last 24 hours. The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which is in contract negotiations with Kaiser Permanente, was joined by registered nurses with the California Nurses Association and members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39 in a sympathy strike. All Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical offices throughout northern California will remain open during the strike. Today’s work-stoppage marks the fourth time NUHW workers have walked the picket line since they began bargaining in 2010, according to a news release. “Despite record profits over the last three years of more than $5.6 billion, Kaiser management is insisting on major reductions to workers’ healthcare coverage and retirement benefits,” according to the release. The union accuses Kaiser of demanding sacrifices from frontline caregivers, while allowing Chief Executive Officer George Halvorson to take home nearly $9 million in compensation in 2010 and increasing rates for 660,000 California policyholders. Kaiser nurses received 5 percent raises for each of the past three years and their contract, in place through 2014, provides wage increases twice each year, according to a Kaiser news release. The first raise appeared on their January 20 paychecks. The union’s allegations that (Kaiser) is proposing to eliminate retirement benefits are simply untrue,” according to the Kaiser release. (Kaiser) has demonstrated throughout its history that it is committed to providing its employees with highly desirable, market-leading salary and benefits.” ~ Sena Christian