20110921 nursestrike
Health care workers walkout as part of a statewide strike to protest citing proposed budget and benefit cuts and degraded patient care at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Sept. 21, 2011 in Los Angeles, Calif. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Here in California, more than 20,000 health care workers are planning to walk off the job today. They're protesting benefit cuts sought by hospital groups Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

But as Marketplace's Bob Moon reports, the strike won't last long -- and that is by design.

Bob Moon: A small group started their picketing yesterday, but most of the workers joining them today will be striking for only a single day. That's enough to make some noise.

Strikers: We say no way!

But can a limited strike be as effective as an open-ended walkout? National Union of Healthcare Workers vice president John Borsos spoke to us from the picket line.

John Borsos: It's like a shot across the bow to the employer. The idea is to try to get the employer to bargain in good faith, and to do it in a way that's least disruptive to patient care.

Borsos says this strategy has produced results in the past.

Borsos: There's other health care providers that have been willing to agree to contracts short of full-blown strikes.

That's what the Health Workers Union and the California Nurses Association are hoping for in this case, but Sutter Health says it has an obligation to keep health care affordable. And Kaiser issued a statement calling the strike unnecessary. It says it's already bargaining in good faith.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.