Approximately 2,600 Kaiser Permanente mental-health employees, upset by what they allege is chronic understaffing in Kaiser's mental-health clinics, plan to launch a weeklong strike in California starting Jan. 12.
Kaiser psychologists, therapists and social workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers will take part in 65 picket lines at more than 35 locations in the state. The NUHW notified Kaiser of the strike on New Year's Eve, according to a release from the union.
In a written statement, Kaiser said the NUHW has used “intimidation and obstructionism” to organize against Kaiser despite improvements the company has made to its mental- health programs.
The NUHW has criticized Kaiser over the past several years for not hiring enough mental-health clinicians to meet patient demand. NUHW members have argued that patients should not have to wait one to two months for their next non-urgent individual therapy appointment. Kaiser officials have maintained that the system's wait times are competitive.
The California Department of Managed Health Care fined Kaiser $4 million in 2013 for failing to provide timely care for mental-health patients.
Union officials said in a December bargaining session that they proposed each facility have a clinician-management committee to seek consensus on staffing and outsourcing, with the help of a mediator if needed. They claim they've exhausted all nondisruptive options and are striking to advocate for patients.