Nurses begin strike against Kaiser in push to improve patient care

Registered nurses at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center began a one-week strike Tuesday as they push for their first contract as members of the California Nurses Association union -- a tactic hospital officials called a disappointing attempt to disrupt patient care in the midst of contract talks.

According to the union, the walkout will affect 1,200 RNs who voted in July 2015 to join the CNA. Union officials said they are pushing for upgraded patient-care staffing and improved economic benefits to attract new nurses and retain experienced ones.

"If Kaiser is planning on using this medical center as its teaching hospital for their medical school, it is critical to improve patient care conditions especially for our region's sickest babies and kids, end floating and provide for a fair contract for nurses," said Aisha Ealey, a neo-natal intensive care unit RN at the hospital.

Ealey was referring to a medical school that Kaiser plans to open in Pasadena, with the first graduates expected in 2019.

Picketing began about 7 a.m., with several dozen people carrying signs and red balloons. The union contends that Kaiser has frozen wages for nurses at the hospital, and it also wants Kaiser to provide a contract with "strong patient-care provisions" similar to provisions in other CAN contracts with the medical group.

In a statement, Kaiser officials called the walkout a "disappointing tactic to try to influence the bargaining of a first-time contract."

"We believe it is entirely inappropriate to attempt to disrupt patient care or service as a bargaining tactic," according to Kaiser.

Hospital officials said plans are in place to ensure that patient care is not affected.

Kaiser also noted that it has proposed "wages for these nurses that would keep them among the best paid nurses in Southern California -- just like the rest of our nurses in our other hospitals.

CNA's response to this significant increase was to call a strike, before we'd even had a chance to discuss the proposal at the bargaining table."

Copyright 2016 FOX 11 Los Angeles : Download our mobile app for breaking news alerts or to watch FOX 11 News | Follow us on Facebook , Twitter and YouTube .