Kaiser workers block traffic in Labor Day protest

About 50 employees blocked traffic in front of Kaiser Permanente's downtown Sacramento, Calif., office on Sept. 2 as part of a planned Labor Day protest in five cities, reports The Sacramento Bee.

The workers held strikes in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif. Police said 54 people were cited and released after the protest in Sacramento, according to CBS Sacramento.

"We support the rights of workers to publicly demonstrate and celebrate Labor Day," Sandy Sharon, RN, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser's Sacramento office, told The Sacramento Bee. "Unfortunately, there were acts of civil disobedience that taxed our city and police resources."

The Kaiser employees are protesting the system's "unfair labor practices and shift from prioritizing patients and the community to profits and enriching top executives," the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said in a press release cited by The Sacramento Bee.

The coalition's bargaining team and Kaiser have been negotiating a new contract for workers, as the current contract is set to expire this month.

The protests come as workers continue voting on whether to call a nationwide strike in early October. If a nationwide strike is called, it would be the country's largest since 1997, according to the coalition. The strike would affect more than 80,000 workers in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser, previously accused the unions of using the strike threat as a bargaining tactic, "designed to divide employees and mischaracterize Kaiser Permanente's position, even though most of the [union] contracts don't expire until October."

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