After a six-day strike, Unite Here Local 5 Kaiser Permanente employees say: mission accomplished.
"We were able to accomplish getting our word out there, our message out there to the patients and the community that our struggle and our daily struggle and our fight is really about patient care," said Maile Duarte-Rego, Kaiser Patient Representative.
The strike began Monday, February 2nd at midnight. That's when union workers walked off the job and onto the picket lines. The strikes ends on Sunday, February 8th at midnight.
The fight is over pay raises and changes with the pension. Kaiser's latest contract offered a four percent raise over three years and no guaranteed pensions for new employees. But Kaiser says the pension change is needed to control costs and to help keep health care affordable for its members.
Local 5 represents nearly 1,900 Kaiser Permanente employees, some of which include licensed practical nurses, receptionists, and medical assistants. That does not include physicians and registered nurses. Kaiser officials estimate about 10-percent of the union employees still showed up to work on the first day of the strike.
Ten of Kaiser's 22 clinics on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island had to close this week. To keep up with the work load, the company brought in extra workers from the mainland, hired vendors for food services and housekeeping, rescheduled appointments, and moved employees who worked at the smaller facilities which closed, to the larger medical offices.
Kaiser has criticized its striking employees for leaving the job midst the peak of the flu season and others have questioned their work ethic.
"To make a statement and not let the people get their help that they need, it's kinda a seesaw effect," said Kevin Jones, who lives right next to the Honolulu clinic.
"Although there were some negative allegations there, it's expected when you take on something like this. But I take overall, we had outpouring support from the community as well. So with that said, we know we're doing the right thing," Duarte-Rego said.
After more than two years of negotiating, the two parties hope to reach an agreement soon. No decision has been made yet. Negotiations will resume on February 18th.