Kaiser Permanente workers throughout Northern California are staging a one-day strike on Tuesday in a dispute over a new contract for mental health and optical employees.
The dispute involves 4,000 members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, who have been bargaining for a new contract since 2010.
Two other unions have agreed to walk out on Tuesday in a sympathy strike. They are the California Nurses Association, which represents 17,000 nurses, and Stationary Engineers Local 39, which represents 650 building and equipment workers.
Approximately 100 workers and nurses gathered outside the Kaiser San Rafael Medical Center on Montecillo Road Tuesday morning, according to Kaiser emergency room nurse Tara Nunez-Walker.
“A lot of people are upset about the (medical benefits) takeaway and the patient care issues that Kaiser is denying and actually trying to gloss over,” said Nunez-Walker, who said she ended her shift at 7 a.m. and immediately joined the picket line.
Kaiser spokesman Joe Fragola disputed the claim, saying that highest tally of picketers during the day was 58.
Union reps said the one-day strike could consequently involve a total of about 22,000 Kaiser employees across the region, union representatives said. Fragola also disputed that claim, saying that approximately 2,000 Kaiser nurses were scheduled to work on Tuesday throughout the region.
"And we are pleased that so many of them made the decision to continue providing our patients with high-quality personalized health care and to honor their contract," he said in an email, estimating that 66 percent of Kaiser workers chose not to join the picket line.
The nurses' union said they support the mental health and optical employees, who include technicians, clinical psychologists, licensed social workers and opticians. The dispute involves wages, health care coverage, retirement benefits, patient care and staffing levels.
--Bay City News Service contributed to this report.