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Sympathy Strike Could See 60,000 Kaiser Workers Walk Off Job Thursday In Support Of Engineers

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — More than 60,000 Kaiser Permanente workers could walk off the job Thursday to join the hospital's engineers who have been on strike since September.

Organizers of the strike say they are not happy with how bargaining with the unions is going and are fed up with the company's lack of respect for its front-line workers.

SEUI-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) said more than 40,000 workers, also from OPEIU Local 29, IFPTE Local 20, are prepared to walk out in support of engineers that have been on their own strike for months now.

"We are not proposing any take-aways and our proposals do not differentiate between current and future employees," Kaiser said of its discussions with the engineer union. "But union leadership wants more, asking for unreasonable increases far beyond any other union at Kaiser Permanente."

Workers taking part in the sympathy strike are expected to walk off the job at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"We are sympathy striking because Kaiser has lost its way and is putting its drive for profits over people, hurting our patients and union co-workers. The Local 39 engineers play a critical role in maintaining our facilities and the equipment we use to take care of patients," said Ethan Ruskin, a health educator at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Jose. "Kaiser needs to put patients first and deliver a fair contract to the engineers."

According to SEIU-UHW, jobs that may be affected by the strike "include optometrists, clinical laboratory scientists, respiratory and x-ray technicians, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, medical assistants, and housekeepers, among hundreds of other positions."

Kaiser said

The health care network reached deals with tens of thousands of workers over the weekend to avoid more strikes. Negotiations with the pharmacist union Sunday went until about 1 a.m. Monday when a deal was struck between both parties avoiding a week-long strike that was set to begin just hours later.

And on Saturday, Kaiser reached a deal with approximately 50,000 other employees — including physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists — to avoid a strike.

In a statement on the weekend deals, Kaiser said:

"We are extremely grateful for all our frontline health care workforce, whose commitment to providing care and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of inspiring. We recently reached successful agreements with dozens of unions that represent more than 60,000 Kaiser Permanente employees that demonstrate our commitment to providing excellent wages and benefits for all employees while meeting our commitment to delivering high-quality, affordable care for our members and patients. These are market-leading contracts, reached through constructive and reasonable bargaining."

In the Greater Sacramento region, the sympathy strikes are expected to take place at Kaiser medical centers in Sacramento, South Sacramento, Vacaville, Modesto, Roseville and Stockton.

Kaiser said some services like non-urgent appointments may be affected and appointments are advised for services like lab and radiology. Kaiser also said some of its medical centers and outpatient pharmacies may be temporarily closed or operating at reduced hours.

Kaiser said it will continue to post updates as they are available on its website.

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