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WESTWOOD, Calif. (KTLA) — Thousands of patient care workers began a two-day strike on Tuesday at University of California hospitals across the state.

Workers picket at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

Some 12,000 employees were expected to walk off the job. Several thousand others could honor their picket lines.

The workers included vocational nurses, respiratory therapists and pharmacy technicians.

They were involved in an ongoing labor dispute with UC management over pay, staffing levels and workers’ contributions to pension plans.

“The reason we’re doing this is about patient safety,” EMT Todd Perez said. “It is about patient care.”

“Money that should be going to patient care — to the workers to keep the patients safe — is not being sent to them,” he said.

The strike was planned for all five UC medical centers: in Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, Davis and San Francisco.

The strike could have a cost of at least $20 million, according to officials at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

UC officials prepared for the walkout by canceling elective surgeries, chemotherapy treatments and other medical procedures.