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Kaiser may face sympathy strike by nurses union

Posted on 17 January 2012 by admin

By Darrell Smith

The union representing Kaiser Permanente’s nurses says thousands of its caregivers may walk off the job Jan. 31 in an echo of mass demonstrations at hospitals in September if labor talks between Kaiser and a sister union stall.

Kaiser and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents mental health professionals, therapists and optical workers in Northern California, have been in contract negotiations for months over pension benefits, health care coverage and staffing issues.

NUHW spokesman Leighton Woodhouse said on Friday that his union’s leaders had not yet decided to give the go-ahead for a Jan. 31 walkout.

“We have not submitted a strike notice” to Kaiser officials, Woodhouse said. A one-day picket remained an option, he said, and Jan. 31 “is a day that member leaders are discussing as a potential strike day.”

But officials at California Nurses Association/National Nurses United said they are considering a one-day walkout in support of the smaller National Union of Healthcare Workers if it calls its members off the job that day.

“There is the potential for a one-day sympathy strike similar to September,” said Deborah Burger, a California Nurses Association president and a staff nurse at Kaiser Santa Rosa hospital. “Kaiser is in control of the bargaining process. All they need to do is withdraw their takeaways and decide to do the right thing.”

In September, thousands of Northern California nurses took to picket lines at more than 30 hospitals to support fellow union members protesting management-proposed benefit cuts at Kaiser and Sutter Health hospitals.

Kaiser officials declined to comment on the negotiations or potential work stoppage, saying they had not received strike notices from the unions.

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