NORTH BAY -- Union employees at Kaiser Permanente facilities throughout the state were joined by the California Nurses Association  in staging a strike to protest proposed cuts in benefits.

The nurse's union joined members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers in a sympathy strike, as each union is in bargaining stages with the health care organizations for benefits packages and salary requirements. 

Across Northern California, about 1,500 NUHW mental health and optical workers at Kaiser took part in the strike, which included hospitals in Santa Rosa, San Rafael and Vallejo. The strike included about 220  Kaiser workers across the North Bay.

The strikes also occurred Wednesday at Kaiser hospitals in Southern California. Statewide, the nurse's association, with some 17,000 registered nurses at Kaiser facilities, joined  nearly 2,500  NUHW members who began a two-day strike action this morning, bringing the total number of Kaiser strikers to 21,000  -- the largest strike in Kaiser's history, according to NUHW. 

Sutter Health facilities were also impacted, as the nurse's union had members walk off the job in support. Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa has about 400 nurses who are CNA members; Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo has about 250, but about 89 nurses didn't join the protest. Novato Community Hospitals has 79 CNA members.

Children’s Hospital in Oakland was also part of the strike.

In Santa Rosa, all services except optical sales were open, said Judy Coffey, Kaiser Permanente's  senior vice president and Marin-Sonoma area manager.

“Because our first priority is always the safety and care of our members and patients, we have anticipated this work stoppage and are fully prepared,” said Ms. Coffey. "It's been business as usual in the hospital and medical offices. We are fully staffed and a sizable number of our RNs were on the job today."