More than 24,000 nurses and healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente have voted in favor of authorizing a strike, according to union representatives.

The United Nurses Associations of California and Union of Health Care Professionals said its member vote allows the unions to call for a strike if “absolutely necessary,” but would give Kaiser Permanente a 10-day notice to not put patients at risk.

The United Nurses Association said its nurses have been working without a contract since Oct. 1 and have negotiated an annual 4% wage increase for its members through 2023. It is also asking for Kaiser not to reduce wages of new hires.

“Kaiser Permanente-sitting on $44.5 billion in reserves-wants to slash wages for new nurses and health care workers and depress wages for current workers,” Union officials said in an Oct. 1 statement. “Kaiser Permanente has turned a $2.7 billion profit during the pandemic, and continued to gain subscribers, yet top Kaiser Permanente leaders claim to be under threat from pop-up clinics and start-up apps.”

Kaiser Permanente countered with a 1% annual wage increase and a 1% bonus, and have asked workers not to walk out.

“We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them,” A Kaiser representative said in a written statement. “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.”

The strike would involve not only nurses, but pharmacists, rehab therapists, midwives, and optometrists at Kaiser hospitals throughout California.

“We can no longer sit back and watch the employer dismantle the partnership that’s been in place since 1997,” UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, RN, said. “There’s no question that partnership saved Kaiser Permanente in the 1990s and brought it to the heights of quality patient care, membership growth, territorial expansion, and even the opening of a medical school. KP is a profound leader in the health care community and our partnership had everything to do with that.”

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