2,500 Healthcare Workers at 80 Southern California Kaiser Worksites Strike Tomorrow for Patient Care

NewsMay 17, 2011

Kaiser Pushing Cuts to Retirement and Health Coverage After Announcing Record First Quarter Profits

When: Wednesday, May 18th beginning at 6am; rally at noon

Where: Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center (LAMC), 4867 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90027

What: One-day strike by 2,500 Kaiser workers

Visuals: Hundreds of healthcare workers marching with picket signs, wearing scrubs and lab coats

LOS ANGELES – Over 2,500 healthcare workers at 80 Kaiser Permanente hospitals, clinics and worksites throughout Southern California will engage in a 24-hour walk-out this Wednesday.

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) are striking for safe staffing levels for nurses at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center (LAMC) and for the ability to provide timely, quality mental health and other clinical services to Kaiser members throughout Southern California. Workers are also protesting Kaiser’s proposed cuts to workers’ retirement and healthcare coverage at a time of record profits for the company, and management’s unfair labor practices.

Registered Nurses at Kaiser LAMC and Social Workers, Psychologists, Speech Pathologists, Audiologists, Health Educators and Dietitians from Kaiser facilities stretching from Kern County to San Diego will participate in the strike.

“Kaiser is so focused on profits that we’re forced to treat our mental health patients like products on an assembly line. That’s not how you help people in pain and anguish,” said Jim Clifford, Therapist at Otay Mesa Kaiser Psychiatry in San Diego. “We’re frontline caregivers and we need a voice in decision making so we can provide our patients with the care they deserve.”

On March 2, over 1,100 Registered Nurses at Kaiser LAMC struck for 24 hours to protest unsafe staffing levels at the hospital. Shortly after the strike, Kaiser continued to refuse to agree to the nurses’ safe staffing proposal, and proposed cuts to workers’ healthcare and retirement benefits even while experiencing one of the most profitable quarters in the company’s history. Two weeks ago, Kaiser announced 2011 first quarter profits of $921 million – over $10 million per day on average – bringing profits since 2009 to over $5 billion.

Kaiser’s remarkable profitability in recent years has resulted in major boosts in executive compensation, including a 31.3% raise from 2008-2009 for Southern California Regional President Ben Chu (from $1.24 million to $1.63 million) and an 11% raise for President/CEO George Halvorson ($7.1 million to $7.9 million). NUHW members argue that Kaiser’s enormous profits should be driven back into patient care, not executive compensation.

“Kaiser executives are making more money than ever and are giving themselves huge raises, but they refuse to provide nurses with the staff we need to take care of our patients properly,” said Roxana Valadez, an RN in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Kaiser LAMC. “And now they’re not just keeping us understaffed, they also want to cut our benefits. Kaiser is becoming a worse and worse place to provide patient care and it won’t be long before skilled nurses no longer want to work for this employer. It’s Kaiser members who will pay the price for that, by being forced to pay higher premiums for lower quality care.”

In Northern California, 15,000 Kaiser nurses have language in their union contract that provides for enforceable safe staffing levels similar to what LAMC nurses have proposed. Kaiser recently agreed to a contract for Northern California RNs that includes none of the benefit cuts the company is pushing on nurses at LAMC.