Kaiser nurses on strike at LA Medical Center

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Unionized registered nurses are on strike Wednesday and picketing outside the Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center. At 7:30 a.m., nearly 100 nurses dressed in red union t-shirts, were banging drums and holding signs near Sunset Boulevard and Vermont Avenue as part of a statewide protest to what union officials call an effort to reduce workers' health care coverage and retirement benefits.

Nurses are scheduled to picket from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, with the walkout continuing Thursday and Friday, The union expects that more than 1,000 nurses will show up to take part in the picketing in Los Angeles.

According to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, as many as 23,000 nurses, some of whom are represented by the California Nurses Association, will be taking part in picketing at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the state. Depending on the location, the strikes are expected to last anywhere from one to three days.

Union officials contend Kaiser is undermining the ability of nurses to afford their own health care and reducing staffing while earning billions of dollars in profits over the last two and a half years.

"But Kaiser administrators refuse to put that enormous financial success back into improving patient care,'' registered nurse LaNeta Fitzhugh said. "... And now, Kaiser wants to cut workers' benefits too, even though Kaiser executives have eight pension plans each. It's outrageous.''

Besides personal health care benefits, nurses cite patient safety as one of their biggest concerns. They contend that Kaiser doesn't always adhere to the ratio guidelines of nurses to patients and they want this to change.

In a statement, Kaiser officials said plans were being made to "minimize the impact on our services and on our members' and patients' care during and after the work stoppage.''

"We want you all to know that the nurses and other health care workers who are on strike are valued members of our health-care team and we look forward to welcoming our employees back when the strike concludes,'' according to Kaiser. "Providing quality health care and ensuring the safety of our members and patients is our highest priority.''

KPCC Wire Services contributed to this report

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