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Local Kaiser Workers Walk Off the Job During a Big Week For Nurses' Strikes in California

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Thousands of hospital workers for Kaiser Permanente walked off the job today to protest short staffing and proposed cuts to their health and retirement benefits.

The workers complain that Kaiser is trying to stiff them at a time when the health care company, like others in the somewhat recession-proof health care industry, is faring pretty well. The National Union of Healthcare Workers going on strike represents about 2,500 employees at medical centers through Southern California, including facilities in Hollywood and the South Bay. The strike is scheduled to last three days.

Kaiser said all of their facilities, include the ER room and urgent care departments will stay open, because they've hired replacement workers to fill the gaps during the strike. The company said they plan to continue bargaining.

"While we recognize the NUHW's legal right to conduct a strike, we believe the bargaining process is the best way to resolve our differences," the company wrote in an e-mail to its members.

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The strike will coincide with other walkouts going on throughout the state tomorrow orchestrated by the California Nurses Association. The union has similar gripes with the Northern California hospital chain Sutter Health — they're protesting cuts in retirement and health benefits and the elimination of paid sick leave.

Union representatives said more than 23,000 nurses in Northern California — including 17,000 sympathetic workers from Kaiser hospitals who have already negotiated their contracts — plan to strike tomorrow, which would make it the largest-ever nurses' strike in the nation.