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SAN DIEGO — A majority of more than 18,000 union members voted to authorize a strike early Monday as negotiations continue with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals said in a news release that 96% of members approved a strike against the health care giant as the union seeks better wages and benefits for employees.

The union says the vote to strike is in response to proposed “hefty cuts to nurse wages and benefits” while the pandemic continues to spread. The authorization vote gives the union the ability to give Kaiser a 10-day notice of a strike, a warning required by law.

UNAC/UHCP said it represents almost 21,000 registered nurses, pharmacists, midwives, physical therapists and other health care workers at Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California hospitals and clinics. A total of 18,209 members voted online between Oct. 1-10 with 86% voter turnout, according to the union.

A spokesperson warned if it comes to a strike, it would be the largest in the country so far this year and likely would “cripple” Kaiser Permanente in SoCal.

“We’ve been in negotiations since April 2021. UNAC/UHCP is focused on recruiting nurses and other health care workers as severe shortages put patient care at risk,” the news release said.

Check back for updates on this developing story.