Kaiser Permanente’s 18,000 nurses throughout Northern California will walk out on a two-day strike beginning Tuesday morning.
The strike by California Nurses Association affects 21 Kaiser hospitals and about 35 clinics, said Katy Roemer, a nurse at Kaiser Oakland and union negotiator. The union and Kaiser have been in contract talks since July.
“It’s about patient safety and quality of care,” nurse Catherine Kennedy said.
Kennedy is on the CNA board of directors.
“The past three years Kaiser has been making $12 million a day, but yet they’ve cut registered nurses or nurse practitioner positions through attrition or retirement,” Kennedy added.
Kaiser Permanente responded to CNA’s reasons to strike in a statement:
“The reasons the union leaders gave for walking out are not supported by the facts – either in our medical centers or at the bargaining table. We have responded to all of the union’s negotiating proposals, and we look forward to more bargaining sessions.”
Though the CNA represents 18,000 Kaiser nurses, about 3,500 of them in the Sacramento area, not all nurses are standing together.
“I feel like a strike should be an absolute last resort,” nurse Dan Skau said.
Skau has worked at Kaiser for 19 years. He said he and many other nurses are frustrated.
“Many of us feel we should have been given an opportunity to have a say and the reasons for a walkout and strike and given an opportunity to vote on those and we weren’t,” Skau said.
Skau said a union rep told him a petition had circulated, but he never saw it. Kennedy disputes that.
“The bargaining team makes a recommendation and then it’s brought to membership and then the nurses vote,” Kennedy said. “The nurses voted.”
The strike coincides with a national day of action Wednesday in which nurses are demanding better training and protective equipment when caring for patients with Ebola. Skau questions the timing of the strike and worries the CNA has an agenda.
Skau said he will cross the picket line into work.
“Patient care is very important to me,” Skau said. “I don’t feel this is the time to be walking out.”
The Kaiser Nurses’ contract ended in August; it was extended twice and is now expired.