FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 30, 2021
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Thousands of RNs, Health Care Workers and Supporters Rallied and Marched in Pasadena near Kaiser Permanente’s SoCal HQ as Strike Threat Intensifies
National Speakers Joined Mayor in Recognizing Health Care Heroes Even as New Strike Authorizations Continue to Roll In
PASADENA – More than 2,500 nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians, and other health care workers gathered with family members, community allies, national union leaders, and local elected officials for a rally in Pasadena’s Memorial Park, then marched to City Hall to receive a proclamation from Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo in gratitude for their sacrifices during the pandemic, patient advocacy, resilience, service, and dedication.
“The number of patients we cared for and lost will forever leave a deep impression on all of us,” Johanna Noriega, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente Fontana, addressed the crowd. “We faced a time that none of us could have fathomed we would ever see in our careers. Among the fears these nurses faced they never once wavered on their priority to provide the best care for their patients.”
The rally and march took place only half a mile from Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California headquarters in Pasadena and in the shadow of a growing number of strike authorization votes among unions representing health care workers at Kaiser Permanente.
UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, RN, spoke from the stage:
“Today, Kaiser Permanente seems to have forgotten what our union members experienced, what you did to protect and care for Kaiser Permanente patients. All the hero signs and pizza parties do not begin to recognize the work and sacrifices of 2020 and 2021.
“For weeks, just blocks from here, we’ve been beating back a two-tier wage package which would impact our ability to hire, recruit and retain during a severe shortage of nurses, health care workers and professionals—wage proposals that resemble those of a slash and burn corporation.
“As of Thursday night, all of our UNAC/UHCP represented Kaiser Permanente groups have authorized a strike, as well as USW and other brothers and sisters in the Alliance of Health Care Unions. We have been bargaining with KP for over six months but now we have a full strike authorization. So, to those of you who fight to deliver extraordinary care to every patient, every time—stay with us, as this next week will define us.”
Fred Redmond, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO—a federation of 57 national and international unions that represent 12.5 million members—addressed the health care workers:
“You should be treated like heroes. And you should be compensated and respected like heroes. What Kaiser proposed is a joke. All across the country health care professionals are overworked, under-respected, and struggling to continue in a profession they love.
“Half a million workers have left health care since the beginning of the pandemic. And I can understand why. They’re exhausted. Burned out. Underappreciated. 6 out of 10 frontline healthcare workers say the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health. And 1 in 3 nurses are considering leaving the bedside. Or have already left.
“The entire healthcare industry has recognized that—everyone except Kaiser. Most places are staffing up. Raising wages. And a lot of them are treating their workers like the valuable assets they are. Yet Kaiser is acting like you are a cost. A number against their bottom line.
“And this way of thinking not only hurts workers, it hurts the patients you serve. Poor staffing leads to poor health outcomes for patients. When healthcare workers are overworked, patients suffer. That’s the horrible truth.”
Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME—parent union to UNAC/UHCP—which represents 1.4 million members:
“These draconian salary cuts being proposed by Kaiser are an insult to you – and also a threat to the entire health care system, which is already buckling under the weight of COVID. Already, one in five health care professionals have left the field since the beginning of the pandemic, threatening the stability that patients need. California and the entire nation are already facing a health care staffing crisis and a looming nurse shortage. How are we going to attract talented people to these physically and emotionally demanding jobs if we’re not paying them enough to support their families?
“You deserve better. During the worst public health crisis in a century, you have been on the very front lines of the front lines. You have answered the call. You have done the courageous, heroic work that has gotten us through one of the worst moments in American history.
“96 percent of you voted to stand with each other…to stand with future Kaiser workers…to stand with your patients…to stand up and fight for the future of health care. If Kaiser thinks they can break you, they are underestimating your resolve, your power, your solidarity. Do not roll over. Do not be cowed. Stick together. Stand and fight. Thank you very much!”
Victor Gordo, Mayor of the City of Pasadena, addressed the crowd from the steps of Pasadena City Hall:
“This is a city that cares about workers. This is a city that cares about what you do every day—not every day, but every minute of every day. I am a mayor who cares about the people who care for my family.
“I recently lost a sister at a Kaiser facility—two months ago. And let me tell you something. It was you who comforted her. It was you who comforted her children—all three of them—and her husband. And I want to start by saying thank you for having done that for my family and my sister.
“When I say I’m here today to support you—each and every one of you—as mayor of Pasadena, I’m here with corazón, with heart, and I’m here to support all of you collectively from here until you get a fair contract that treats you with dignity and respect and allows you to do the work for others that you did for my sister.”
In total, more than 40,000 Kaiser health care workers across the country are now eligible to strike based on a series of authorization votes among member unions in the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), including more than 21,000 members of UNAC/UHCP.
This includes vote results announced yesterday for more than 1,500 UNAC/UHCP pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists from Fresno to Sacramento in Northern California and on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the big island in Hawaii.
United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) represents more than 32,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals in California and Hawaii, including optometrists; pharmacists; physical, occupational and speech therapists; case managers; nurse midwives; social workers; clinical lab scientists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners. UNAC/UHCP is affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO.