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Southern California Kaiser employees vote to authorize strike

Thirty-one thousand employees would be part of the strike from all over Southern California.

SAN DIEGO — Over 96 percent of the 18,000 union members voted to authorize a strike amongst Kaiser Permanente employees.

18,209 members of the AFSCME-affiliated UNAC/UHCP (United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals) voted online between October 1 and October 10—voter turnout was 86%.

The 31,000 members who would strike include 24,000 registered nurses, pharmacists, midwives, physical therapists and occupational therapists, optometrists, and others at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. It would also include 7,000 United Steel Workers health care workers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

According to a press release, this strike would affect Kaiser hospitals and medical centers in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Baldwin Park, Downey, Fontana, Irvine, Los Angeles, Ontario Vineyard, Panorama City, Riverside, San Diego, West Los Angeles, and Woodland Hills, as well as numerous clinics and medical office buildings throughout Southern California.

The union is asking for a four percent wage increase for all of its members over the next three years. Kaiser has offered a one percent wage increase with a one percent bonus for each year. New hires in 2023 would be offered a reduced wage.

In a statement, Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente, said Kaiser is continuing to work with the union's umbrella organization, the Alliance of Health Care Unions, on reaching an agreement. Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions have been in negotiations since April.

In her statement, Peasnall said, "We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them. Our priority is to continue to provide our members with high-quality, safe care. In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff."

Although the strike was approved, it will not begin immediately. The strike authorization gives the bargaining teams the option of calling a strike when they choose and for a duration to be set at that time. Unions in the health care industry are required by law to submit a ten-day notice to the employer before striking.

One in four Californians receives their health care from Kaiser Permanente.

WATCH RELATED: Kaiser's mental health professionals strike in California (Dec 2019)