As a massive health care strike draws closer, dozens of health workers and union leaders spent Labor Day being arrested for civil disobedience in Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento.
These protesting workers from Kaiser Permanente said with dozens of top-level jobs making over a million dollars each annually, their hospitals should be able to pay them the wages they deserve.
Kaiser and the unions representing tens of thousands of workers have been negotiating new contracts — demanding better pay and benefits.
For Arlene Salas, an LVN for the past 11 years, she said cuts to their health care and retirement plans have made it difficult for many workers to make ends meet, especially in California, where the cost of living is high.
“It’s hard especially when management is looking over you. It’s just hard to see how much money they make, compared to how much money we make and how hard we work so it’s kind of hard. It’s going to be hard because I have 4 in the family, one child is autistic especially when he’s over the age I can’t get enough resources with him so it’s hard.”
Last December, the National Labor Relations Board charged the healthcare giant with failing to bargain in good faith with its workers.
Kaiser, which has contracts with 60 unions, representing some 160,000 employees, said it has presented a contract proposal that would provide annual pay increases that would give their workers higher than market average salaries, as well as maintain excellent benefits.
Kaiser said that contrary to the unions’ claims, the contract proposal does not cut salaries and benefits like pension plans.
Another cause of concern for these protesting workers is the hospital chain’s outsourcing of certain jobs.
“They’re trying to outsource departments you know. It’s all over different departments not only claims department. It’s different departments so we’ll never know who’s going to be outsourcing.”
Democratic presidential candidate California Senator Kamala Harris joined hundreds in Southern California applauding the rallying workers and their decision to strike.
“When I look at the brothers and sisters of organized labor in California, I say you have always been part of the leadership of this nation, because your fight is not only a fight for Southern California or Northern California or the Central Valley. Your fight is not only a fight for the working men and women of California — but your fight is the fight for working men and women across these United States.”
The decision to strike which was voted by members, is scheduled to begin next month, but it’s not yet sure how long it will last.
For Salas, she knows she has to sacrifice a few paychecks for her family’s future.
“It’s going to be hard financially, but if I have to I have to, to fight for it, fight for my benefits.”
As both sides prepare for the strike, Kaiser said its first priority is always the continuity of care for their patients and members.
“The October strike would affect some 80 thousand Kaiser workers nationwide, about 66 thousand in California. Steve Angeles abs cbn news Los Angeles.