More than 22,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses and nurse practitioners plan to stage a two-hour picket at Kaiser facilities throughout California next week, claiming they’re understaffed and facing safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the Thursday, Sept. 1 protests will take place at 21 Kaiser hospitals in Northern California, although another one will be held at Los Angeles Medical Center in Hollywood where about 1,200 nurses are employed.
The workers, represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, notified Kaiser of the protest last week.
The picket comes on the heels of a one-day strike nurses staged at the L.A. hospital in June, voicing the same concerns.
Their contract expired Sept. 30, 2021. The union has been negotiating for a new labor agreement since June with little to no movement on key issues, union officials said.
“We need more nurses to provide the care our patients deserve,” said CNA President Cathy Kennedy, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Roseville. “There is simply no reason or excuse for nurses to be short-staffed this long into the pandemic.”
In a statement issued Friday, Kaiser said it is in active bargaining with the union and stressed that the Sept. 1 action is not a strike and won’t impact operations at the hospital.
“We believe that by working together with the unions that represent our employees, including our amazing nurses, we will continue to achieve the best results for our members, patients and the communities who depend on Kaiser Permanente for their health care needs — and help to keep Kaiser Permanente as a great place to work for all,” the statement said.
Kaiser added that it’s working to reach a “fair and equitable agreement” with market-competitive benefits and wages.
Tinny Abogado, a nurse in the transitional care unit at Kaiser’s Los Angeles hospital, said the company has failed to provide adequate protective gear and ensure safe procedures amid the health crisis.
She said there is no guarantee that nurses will receive COVID-19 testing. They also need sick leave following exposure to the virus.
“Sadly, after years of putting our lives and communities at risk, Kaiser has still failed to provide those guarantees in our contract,” Abogado said.
The nurses are seeking three primary guarantees:
- Health and safety provisions that address the dangers of infectious diseases
- Workplace violence prevention standards that protect frontline nurses
- Minimum staffing guidelines that ensure safe patient care
During the June strike, Abogado said 50 nurses had left the hospital due to the poor working conditions — a move that put patient care in jeopardy. RNs, she said, often work 12-hour shifts without a break.
“It pains me to see experienced nurses leave our hospital,” she said. “They have enough money to make sure we have syringes when we need them, ancillary staff to help care for our patients and relief nurses to provide RNs with meal breaks.”
Thursday’s other protests will be held at Kaiser hospitals in Antioch, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose, among other locations.
Kaiser nurses aren’t the only ones calling for increased staffing.
Workers at Fountain View Subacute and Nursing Center in Los Angeles picketed the facility last month, saying they’re understaffed, in need of higher wages and grappling with high turnover.
Nearly 7,000 L.A. County nurses reached a labor agreement with the county in May, narrowing averting an unfair labor practice strike that was set to begin the following month.
The workers, represented by SEIU 721, forged an 11th-hour deal that called for stronger job protections and less outsourcing of jobs at county hospitals and healthcare facilities, while also locking in competitive wages to retain nurses.