200 Local Kaiser Workers Strike for Fourth Time

24-hour strike aims to protect health care and retirement benefits

Workers at Kaiser Permanente are lining up in front of facilities across California to bring awareness to contract disputes with Kaiser's mental health and optical employees.

Statewide, 4,000 National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) employees will strike for 24-hours Tuesday. It is expected to be one of the biggest strikes in Kaiser's history, since two other unions will also walk out.

The disputes center around proposed cuts to retirement and health care benefits.

Over 200 of those NUHW employees work in San Diego. It's the group's fourth walkout since contract negotiations began in 2010. The most recent one since Tuesday's was in September.

Workers on strike say Kaiser's disputes affect not only their own health care and benefits, but also patient care.

"We've worked hard to make Kaiser successful," said Sarah Eberst, a Lincensed Clinical Social Worker with NUHW, "but we don't want that to come at the cost of pateint care or at the cost of our own retirement benefits or healthcare."

In April, Kaiser sent an economic proposal back to the unions, which have not negotiated since, according to MaryAnn Barnes, Senior Vice President and Executive Director Health Plan and Hospital for Kaiser in San Diego.

"We're very disappointed, and we need to see movement in the negotiations," Barnes said. "We're willing to negotiate in good faith, but we are not getting the same kind of reaction from NUHW."

All Kaiser hospitals and medical offices are expected to remain open during the strike, with Kaiser relying on replacement workers and nurse managers for additional staffing. This is possible because a very small group of the workers are actually on strike today, Barnes said.

"When Kaiser is making billions of dollars of profit per year," Eberst said, "It's not okay to be cutting back on employees retirement and health care."

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