Californian nurses strike over patient care and pensions

By Workin Class Self Organization, at LibCom:

Thousands of nurses across California have gone on strike to fight for their pensions which are being slashed by Kaiser Permanente. They have been joined on the picket line in a ‘sympathy’ strike by nurses from a union with a ‘no strike’ policy, and by maintainence workers.

An estimated 4,000 nurses employed by Kaiser Permanente in California have gone on strike across eighty of the state’s hospitals and clinics.

Kaiser and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have been in negotiations for several months over issues such as, pensions, benefits, health care coverage, and staffing levels.

Kaiser are a highly profitable company, in 2009 the recorded turnover of $42 billion, yet they are trying to slash pensions, and other employment benefits.

Another issue for the workers is that of patient care. As Kaiser’s profits rise, staffing levels fall. A staff member carried a placard that said, “Kaiser execs thrive, patient care takes a dive”. She said that Kaiser should be using their profits to increase staffing, and to maintain the same level of health and retirement benefits for its employees. We are tired of Kaiser making so much profit, and they are not providing healthcare for the patients. We are fighting Kaiser because of the greediness.”

Kaiser refutes any allegations of low staffing levels. They state that they ‘comply with minimum staffing levels set by the state’. The also said that the revised benefits package for employees would be ‘robust’, and ‘competitive’.

Around 17,000 Workers represented by the California Nurses Association, staged a ‘sympathy strike’ in support of the colleagues, despite their contracts containing a ‘no strike’ clause. They were then joined in the sympathy strike by 750 members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39, who represent maintenance workers.

Kaiser claims that they have not received any notification of strike from any union.