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Kaiser Sacramento workers join tens of thousands in biggest health care strike in U.S. history

Sacramento Kaiser workers join historic strike
Sacramento Kaiser workers join historic strike 02:28

SACRAMENTO — Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers across the state hit the picket lines to protest unfair labor practices and unsafe working conditions.

Lanette Griffin, who has been a lab technician for 27 years at Kaiser South Sacramento, joined the more than 75,000 workers on the picket line in what is the largest walkout by health care employees in the nation's history.

"I'm at the bargaining table," Griffin said. "I left to come get my people."

Their contract expired on September 30, and Griffin said Kaiser has failed to address poor working conditions.

"Kaiser needs to...I'm so upset with them. Kaiser needs to bargain in good faith," she said. "They need to work with the front-line healthcare workers to fix the Kaiser short-staffing."

"I am a medical assistant for 27 years — 22 of those years, I worked in a department with five doctors by myself, and I've been doing that til this day," Kim Samuel said.

Kaiser workers are concerned that the short-staffing, which has been an issue for years, is creating bigger issues when it comes to patient safety.

"Nurses are doing 2-3 persons' job and it makes it hard to take care of patients," another worker said. "Patients are waiting longer than normal to see a doctor and when they do see the doctor, visit times are abbreviated, which doesn't address all their concerns."

The union says Kaiser, a nonprofit, made more than $3 billion in the first half of this year.

"Kaiser Permanente has the resources to fix this problem we are asking them to fix and they are not wanting to fix it," one man on the picket line said.

Kaiser says it "leads total compensation in every market," and is offering guaranteed across-the-board wage increases from 12.5 to 16 percent over four years, with a $23 minimum wage in California. A spokesperson said:

"Both Kaiser Permanente management and coalition union representatives worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement. There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals. We remain committed to reaching a new agreement."

Union members are saying they are not being heard.

"They are not hearing my voice when I'm trying to tell them I need help. My patients need help," Samuel said. "They don't hear it. They just say, 'You can do it.' "

Union nurses and physicians are not on strike, and Kaiser said hospitals and emergency rooms will remain open. However, some services like non-emergency appointments or pharmacy hours may be impacted.

The three-day strike is set to end at 6 a.m. Saturday.

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