Psychologists, social workers, therapists, and chemical dependency counselors are in the ninth week of an open-ended strike at Kaiser Permanente in Northern and Central California. The 2,000 mental health care workers walked out August 15; their contract has been expired since September 2021. They’re members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which split from SEIU in 2010. NUHW says Kaiser has failed to provide the staffing and wages to retain adequate and diverse staff—yielding unsustainable workloads and dangerous understaffing. After a mental health intake visit, even patients in crisis may wait weeks or months for a second appointment. Clinicians also report managers pressure them to prescribe next appointments when an appointment is available, rather than when they think the patient needs it—a practice that’s dangerous for patients and demoralizing for mental health workers.
The mental health strike at Kaiser moves to Maui today as the open-ended event enters Day 3. Clinicians with the National Union of Healthcare Workers will hold a picket today, Aug. 31, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kaiser Maui Lani Medical Office, located at 55 Maui Lani Parkway in Wailuku. Across the state, Kaiser Permanente mental health care workers, represented by the NUHW union began the strike Monday with picket lines in Honolulu and other locations on Oʻahu. After today’s Maui picket, the strike line will move to the Hawaiʻi Island on Thursday before returning to Oʻahu during the Labor Day weekend. Kaiser’s mental health care workers in California also have been on strike over the same issues since Aug. 15.
California - Thousands of Northern California Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), are on strike. Their goal is to compel Kaiser to put an end to the gaping disparity in the care it provides for physical vs. mental health conditions. Patients are forced to wait months before they can start therapy. The union reports that psychologists, therapists, and social workers are quitting in frustration. Kaiser has been fined by state regulators and sued by local prosecutors for its lack of mental health care. It is now facing a new state investigation following a sharp rise in patient complaints last year. Kaiser also has failed to comply with a new state law requiring follow-up mental health therapy appointments be provided within 10 business days.
California - Mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente announced plans Tuesday for an open-ended strike that could lead as many as 2,000 Northern California mental health workers to curtail appointments beginning on Aug. 15. The announcement came in response to frustration with the level of service provided to patients at the nation’s largest nonprofit HMO, which Capital & Main reported on in a recent story. As a result of understaffing, patients who should receive weekly therapy are waiting months to start treatment and as long as two months between appointments in violation of clinical guidelines, according to a statement released by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents the workers. (Disclosure: NUHW is a financial supporter of this website.)
Two thousand northern California Kaiser Permanente mental health practitioners, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have voted to strike the giant California health maintenance organization (HMO). The result of the late May balloting was 91% in favor of walking out – the date yet to be determined. The vote follows a three-day strike in Hawaii. In May, Hawaiian psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and chemical dependency counselors walked picket lines on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island to protest Kaiser’s severe understaffing at clinics and medical facilities. Staffing, patient loads, working conditions, these issues are the same right throughout the Kaiser’s vast system. The wealthy and powerful corporation that self-advertises as non-profit and patient centered cynically refuses to meet minimal staffing requirements (mandated by state regulations and the law) while enforcing working conditions that demoralize clinicians and place mental health patients in danger (often severe, even fatal)– all in the name of the bottom line.
Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest healthcare providers and hospital networks in the US, reached a tentative agreement with an alliance of unions just two days before a historic strike. The four-year agreement includes pay raises and measures to address understaffing, while withdrawing a two-tier pay system that would pay new hires up to a third less than current workers. In the next few weeks, workers will vote to ratify it and continue to work as scheduled. Jeanne Narmore, a phlebotomist who’s been working at Kaiser for 25 years, told Monica Cruz, “The past two nights have been really rough, stressful, and sleepless for us. We are very emotional and relieved that a tentative agreement has been reached.” She continued, “We are remaining hopeful that we will be able to ratify the contract in the coming weeks!”ratify it and continue to work as scheduled.
Across corporate America, relations between companies and their labor unions range from chilly to ice-cold. Not at Kaiser Permanente – the California-based healthcare giant. Kaiser has long been seen as having the nation’s best labor-management partnership. Now the partnership finds itself in crisis as 34,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers prepare to strike on Monday, in what would be the largest walkout in this fall’s strike wave.
For 13 years, registered nurse Kim Mullen has been part of a successful experiment: a collaborative partnership between the health care professionals at Kaiser Permanente and the executives who run the massive nonprofit. Decisions about the day to day delivery of care were shared among physicians, managers and employees. Workers’ input was actively and continuously solicited. Staffing ratios, wages and benefits, patient care — all were subject to group-based discussion and problem solving. “It’s a model that puts patients first,” says Mullen, who works at Kaiser’s South Bay Medical Center in the Harbor City area of Los Angeles. “We have always led in partnership. I now help teach that model of partnership. And we’ve known what the vision was — like a compass, with our patients’ care right in the middle.