Mental Health Care Workers Strike Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena Rally Planned

Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2019 | 5:59 AM

Earlier this year, Kaiser Permanente mental health therapists staged a one-day walkout outside their offices at 3280 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena on April 25, 2019. A similar action is planned for this Thursday.

Following a months-long tug-of-war at the bargaining table, some 4,000 mental health care workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities across California walked off the job Monday morning, Dec. 16.

The Kaiser Permanente Pasadena Medical Offices at 3280 East Foothill Boulevard did not have a picket line out front, according to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, although the company’s Pasadena headquarters at 393 East Walnut Street will be gathering place for a Thursday, December 19, rally.

The walk-out is not open-ended and is set to end Friday.

In a Dec. 16 statement Kaiser Permanente emphasized that its facilities remained open, the strike notwithstanding.

“Anyone in need of urgent mental health or other care will receive the services they require,” said Annie Russell, chief operating officer, Southern California Permanente Medical Group. “Where necessary, we will call members [read: patients] to reschedule some non-urgent appointments.”

The striking National Union of Healthcare has been at loggerheads with the Pasadena-based health maintenance organization (HMO) over what it says are staffing shortages in a system that neglects mental health patients.

The union has cited a regulatory action taken by the state Department of Managed Healthcare, including a $4 million fine for violation that state’s Mental Health Parity Act, to bolster its case.

Kaiser Permanente has countered that the psychologists, therapists, psychiatric nurses and other healthcare employees wouldn’t be engaged in a strategy of staggered job actions that disrupt treatment if they were so concerned with patients’ health.

The union’s negotiating proposals, the HMO has said in the past, would actually impact patient care negatively.

The argument remains the same going into the five-day action, according to union spokesman Matthew Artz.

Last December, a five-day walkout was conducted by the union rank-and-file. That was followed by a one-day work stoppage in April of this year at the Pasadena facility.

Members voted to call off a June 11 strike at the request of local Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D), urging both sides back to the bargaining table.

The parties have been working with a state mediator whom, Russell said, has proposed a compromise measure the company is willing to look at, but which the union has rejected.

Artz said the mediator is paid for by Kaiser Permanente and that the proposal is not anything the union feels it can sell to its members.

The strike represents the extension of a rough stretch for the HMO.

After successfully terminating a different and nettlesome contract negotiation with the 85,000-member Coalition of Kaiser Permanente in September, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Bernard Tyson passed.

Now it is confronted with a strike it had hoped to avoid.






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