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Kaiser mental health care workers return to bargaining table

More than 2,000 psychologists, social workers and therapists throughout California are demanding better staffing and patient care.
Outside Kaiser Permanente Redwood City

Nearly a month since thousands of Kaiser Permanente mental health care workers went on strike, the union set to resume bargaining with their employer this week.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) President Sal Rosselli announced that Kaiser asked the union to return to the table starting Thursday.

More than 2,000 psychologists, social workers and therapists throughout Northern California and the Central Valley went on strike Aug. 15, asking for improvements for the care providers and the patients they serve. Their demands include increased staffing and reduced wait times for patients seeking help.

According to Kaiser, the company plans to extend its last proposal to the union again. The offer, which was presented the weekend before the strike, includes annual wage increases, a lump sum cash payment and a retroactive cash payment of up to $6,300. It would also increase the amount of time clinicians spend on non-patient tasks from 15% to 18%.

"We will waive the response deadline on our last offer so that it is still available for the union to bring to therapists," Kaiser said in a statement. "We remain committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement that’s good for our therapists and our patients, and we hope the union will engage productively in bargaining this week to reach that goal."

The strike will continue, with picket lines outside various Kaiser facilities, until a settlement is reached.

“Our members have shown incredible resolve and remain determined to keep fighting until Kaiser is willing to meet the mental health needs of its patients,” Rosselli said in a statement.

While progress has been made in regard to fair wage negotiations, the union remains concerned about the company's ability to meet the mental health needs of its 4.6 million members.

"We had already agreed to Kaiser’s wage proposal. This strike is about patient care," Rosselli said. 

"The settlement offer that Kaiser made prior to the start of the strike would not have addressed the severe understaffing of Kaiser mental health clinics that forces patients to wait months for mental health therapy sessions in violation of state law and has resulted in therapists leaving Kaiser in droves over the past year." 

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