Kaiser nurses in LA walk out

March 7, 2011

LOS ANGELES--Nurses at Kaiser Permanente's Los Angeles Medical Center staged a 24-hour strike on March 2 to protest unfair labor practices at the hospital, including management's refusal to bargain in good faith, and to protect patient care standards at the hospital.

The 1,100 registered nurses, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), picketed all around the flagship Kaiser campus on March 2--the first strike there in more than 20 years, and the first by any workers at any Kaiser facility since 1997.

With hundreds of nurses on the picket line, chanting and carrying signs like "Patients Before Profits" and "Standing up for Respect," strikers were buoyed by the support of drivers-by, of Teamsters who refused to cross the picket line, construction workers who put down their tools, and even a FedEx driver who turned his truck away.

Nurses are fighting against inadequate patient-to-staff ratios, nurses being assigned to cover units outside their specialty, and starting wages $15 an hour below those paid at Kaiser hospitals in Northern California.

Kaiser has been resisting contract talks since the nurses voted to switch their representation from Service Employees International Union to NUHW a year ago. "We know our fight will be effective because we believe in the power of our coworkers," said one nurse steward, "not labor-management partnership."

The feeling of solidarity was high, among the nurses and in seeing their fight connected to the struggle of workers in Wisconsin.

"Public and private employees have to stand together," said a nurse named Mike. "The rich want us to take care of them, but they don't want to give us the tools...Kaiser spends millions of dollars on new valet parking, but they don't want to spend so nurses can properly care for their patients? That says it all."

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