More than 60 workers walked off the job this morning at Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills medical center on De Soto Avenue, part of a statewide 24-hour strike. Officials said the walkout had little impact on operations.

The picket was organized by members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which in Woodland Hills consists of mental health professionals, health educators, dieticians, audiologists and speech pathologists.

It was the third walkout and first picket at Woodlands Hills in 12 months, said Leighton Woodhouse, spokesman for the union. NUHW took over representation from the Service Employees International Union of 71 workers at Woodland Hills and this is its first contract talks with Kaiser management.

"The one-day work stoppage did not affect patient care at our Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center,” said Richard D. Trogman, chief operating officer at Woodland Hills. “Our facility remained open during the picketing activity.”

Woodhouse said the walkout followed sticking points in contract talks around benefits and staffing. “We have told them staffing is inadequate, especially in mental health services and we are looking for a way for workers to be part of fixing that problem. But they continue to refuse to recognize it as a problem.”

He said the company is also looking to reduce health care and retirement benefits. “We don’t understand the economic justification because they are making massive profits.”

Some 2,500 employees walked out in Kaiser facilities in Southern California, including medical centers in Downey, Fontana and San Diego. The California Nurses Association and Local 39 of the International Union of Operating Engineers walked out in Northern California locations in sympathy strikes.

“We recognize NUHW’s legal right to conduct a strike, but we believe the bargaining table is the best place to resolve differences,” Kaiser said in a prepared statement. “Regardless of any strike activity, we will continue to seek meaningful dialogue

and negotiate in good faith; we hope to reach an agreement soon.”

Kaiser added that over nearly two years of trying to reach an agreement with NUHW, it has offered proposals around salary, working conditions and benefits, and it has made significant progress in those negotiations, including having signed more than 100 tentative agreements with the representatives of NUHW’s three employee units. “Our goal is to ensure Kaiser Permanente will remain a great place to work for NUHW-represented employees, and that they will continue to receive highly desirable, market-leading salary and benefits, including health care coverage and a generous retirement package.”