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22,000 health workers striking Kaiser

If you’ve got a Kaiser appointment today, good luck.

22,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals are striking against Kaiser starting at 7 a.m. in support of a new contract for mental health workers and opticians.

The California Nurses Association has called for the work stoppage to last until Wednesday morning. The strike is to honor the picket lines of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 4,000 Kaiser employees.

Kaiser says it will maintain regular and emergency service at its Northern California locations, though some drop-in services (like optical sales, ahem) may be closed in certain locations. Some elective procedures may also be rescheduled.

Workers are asking to hold onto pension and health benefits in light of the $5.6 billion in profit Kaiser has made in the last three years, while Kaiser wants to scale back to 401(k)-style retirement plans and larger co-payments.

Rallies for the striking workers will be held Tuesday at noon at Kaiser hospital in Oakland, and at Kaiser South in Sacramento.

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