Kaiser Permanente labor relations leaders hosted a discussion October 6 with National Union of Healthcare Workers president Sal Rosselli and the NUHW bargaining team to resolve the current labor strike and enable striking therapists to return to caring for patients who need them. We were optimistic that we could address the remaining issues that union leaders have raised.
We offered the union a proposal that demonstrated significant movement beyond the compromises we have already made, and that shows again that we have been listening and seeking to resolve the remaining issues and end the strike. We came with a clear desire to address concerns, provide real solutions, and reach agreement. We were disappointed that the union came with no new proposals, offered no counterproposals, and refused to make any progress.
It is important to know that, despite its public claims to be fighting to improve access to care, NUHW’s primary demand is for union members to spend less time seeing patients. The union’s bargaining demands will dramatically reduce access to mental health care for our members, and in the meeting the union even acknowledged that their proposals will reduce the number of mental health care appointments.
The issue is the amount of time therapists have to do work outside of seeing patients. We currently provide 9 hours a week, and have proposed increasing that to 10 hours. That would mean 75% of a therapist’s time would be spent seeing patients, and the remaining 25% would be reserved for other work. The union wants more, and is demanding 11 hours a week of time not seeing patients. The union’s excessive demand would reduce the number of appointments we currently have by more than 2,500 every week. This takes us in the wrong direction, at a time when the need for mental health care has never been higher.
Kaiser Permanente has been clear we are not willing to do that. We have extended all that we can without jeopardizing the care we bring to patients.
Unfortunately, the union has decided to stay with a scorched-earth approach. The union’s stunt is a cynical effort to exploit real pain in our community, to try to influence the bargaining discussion. We find this tactic, which the union has used time and again in bargaining, deeply insensitive. It’s also especially hypocritical, since the union’s demands in bargaining would make care less available to those in need.
We know the work our therapists do is extraordinary and extraordinarily challenging. We are deeply appreciative of the majority of our therapists — nearly two-thirds — who have returned to work in spite of this unresolved contract. We thank them for putting patients first.