Union health care workers arrested at Kaiser Permanente protest

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DOWNEY (CNS) – Thirteen union activists marked Labor Day getting peacefully arrested, to protest plans by Kaiser Permanente to reduce staffing, which the giant healthcare chain says is necessary to contain costs.

Workers linked hands and sat down on pavement near Imperial Highway at Bellflower Boulevard in front of the Kaiser Permanente in Downey, at 9333 E. Imperial Hwy., according to news media reports.

Police said they made 13 arrests but would not provide details. Westbound Imperial Highway was closed at Bellflower Boulevard much of the day, as the planned confrontation unfolded.

Unionized health care have been protesting since May at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the state, including at Harbor City, Baldwin Park and West Los Angeles.

“Kaiser is raking in money and yet it’s acting like it has no choice but to outsource jobs, relocate workers and pay new employees less,” union member Lanette Griffin said in a statement released by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West last spring.

“It makes no sense because Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit organization and it is supposed to be putting the community’s interests first.”

The union has accused Kaiser of boosting its bottom line while making cuts that could hurt patient care. It alleged that the hospital plans to lay off pharmacy warehouse workers in Downey and make further staff cuts at other warehouses while relocating call center jobs in Los Angeles, Baldwin Park and Woodland Hills to other areas where workers will earn less.

Kaiser officials answered last spring that the union’s claims “are exactly the opposite of what’s happening.”

“The changes we are working on will ultimately give our members and patients better service, at a lower cost, and help meet tougher government standards around controlled substances,” said John Nelson, vice president of communications for Kaiser Permanente.

“What’s more, Kaiser Permanente is growing, and we are adding jobs overall,” he said. “As one of the largest private employers in California with more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians in the state, since 2015, we have added more than 13,000 jobs in California and continue to add jobs with more than 12,000 open staff positions and hundreds of physician positions.”

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