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Kaiser Says Cut Back/We Say Fight Back!
Mental health clinicians, clinical psychologists, licensed social workers and opticians at Kaiser Permanente were joined by nurses in a one-day strike at facilities throughout California yesterday. In Santa Clara, strikers said the issue of safe staffing was key in contract negotiations and chanted "Together we stand, together we fight, Safe patient care...is a right!"
At Kaiser in Santa Clara, employees and their supporters started gathering in front of the large medical facility at the corner of Lawrence Expressway and Homestead at 6:30am. The crowd grew to about 150 protesters by mid-morning. Honks from passing cars at the busy intersection encouraged the group on in their fight for workers' rights and improved patient care. Slogans on signs demonstrators carried read "Care Delayed, Care Denied" and "Some Cuts Never Heal."
The strike was called by members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a union that represents mental health clinicians, clinical psychologists, licensed social workers and opticians. They were supported by the California Nurses Association. Many nurses joined the strike demonstrating side by side with clinical colleagues. The Raging Grannies, a group that has long been supporters of nurses and health care workers, lent their endorsement to the action, bringing signs and chants to the event.
One mental health care clinician said that a a big wealthy corporation like Kaiser should not be rolling back standards and pointed out Kaiser's CEO earned nearly $9 million in compensation in 2010.
In contract negotiations with NUHW, Kaiser proposed major cuts in employee health-care coverage and retirement benefits. The union expressed concerns about staffing levels; they have argued that patients often endure long waits for mental health appointments.
One demonstrator carried a sign that read "Kaiser Member Supporting the Strike". Dozens of strike supporters were still on hand well after dusk.
Kaiser is the largest managed care organization in the United States.
Gathering in solidarity
Waving to passing cars