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Story and video by Nadin Abbott; photos by Tom Abbott
February 1, 2012 (San Diego)--   The National Union of Health Care Workers (NUHW) called for a one-day strike yesterday at all Kaiser Permanente healthcare facilities statewide in California.  In San Diego the picket line walking started at six in the morning and ended at 10 p.m. outside Kaiser Hospital on Zion, with about 50 union members and supporters walking the line. View video of strike: According to Jim Clifford, a union rep, the ”concerns are over patient care and retirement.”
Kaiser wants to transform the retiree Pension System into a 401 K, which employees do not think is fair or safe, after the 2008 crash. According to Clifford, upper management has access to several pension funds, but wants to take workers’ pensions awaya move workers contend is unfair. Clifford also raised  the issue of patient load, which has increased since membership in the system has gone up, while staffing levels have remained the same. 
According to Robyn Kastner, a licensed Clinical Social Worker this is the third strike, and “management is not listening.” She said that managementclaims to be bargaining in good faith, but in reality is not doing such. Insofar as patient access to care, she said that it takes anywhere from four to six weeks to see a therapist. She said that the strike is also about patient care. Members want to deliver quality care, and right now they feel they cannot due to a very high patient\staff ratio.
Members of the San Diego Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice came to support the striking workers. Rabbi Laurie Coskie told the workers that they “stand besides them because it is not just.” Reverend David Miller used the words of Doctor Martin Luther King, who spoke of the need for economic justice, and that Kaiser is not recognizing “the human need of the workers, it is a shame.”  He added that workers “should be served and cared for by the people at the top.”
Mary Ann Barnes, Senior VP/ Executive Director at Kaiser, said that the hospital examined all the challenges to patient\staff ratio raised by the union. She said that they are complying with all California regulations. She also said that union claims were not true.

According to Barnes, there was a full economic proposal presented to the union in April of last year, and  the ball is in the union’s court. The Kaiser spokeswoman said that  operations continue normally and they have not been affected. Moreover,  that even today they had appointments available. Barnes insisted that management wants “to get it settled.” 

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