Richmond Kaiser union members give reasons for striking
on September 23, 2011
Dozens of Kaiser employees from the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the California Nurses Association hit the streets Thursday in front of Richmond’s Kaiser location to picket proposed cuts to NUHW employees’ healthcare and retirement benefits.
The walk-out was scheduled for 7 a.m., when union members snuck out the backdoor of the hospital to join their colleagues outside. They held signs and chanted throughout the morning, and a second group of individuals was scheduled to keep the picket line going through 8 p.m.
A few community figures showed their support of the unions’ decisions to strike, including Tony Thurmond, a West Contra Costa County School District board member, and California State Democratic Controller Hilary Crosby.
Kaiser Permanente officials from the Richmond and regional offices in Oakland were unable to comment, but a press release was distributed Thursday afternoon expressing the nonprofit’s disappointment in NUHW’s decision to strike during the “preliminary stages” of the contract-negotiation process. The statement also debunked the unions’ claims that the strike is related to the quality of Kaiser’s healthcare.
“The work stoppage is about labor issues related to contract negotiations and benefits proposals,” the statement said. “We strongly disagree with anyone who may claim that this is about issues related to quality.”
The hospital remained open throughout the 24-hour strike period, and NUHW and CNA employees returned to work Friday.
The Local 39 union, which represents Kaiser’s engineers, also announced its decision to strike in sympathy, but no Local 39 employees planned to join the picket line in Richmond, said NUHW psychologist Barry Kamil.
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