Today marks one month of the National Union of Healthcare Workers’ unnecessary strike, which has disrupted the lives of many patients and cost our employees lost income. For no good reason.
The strike never needed to take place, but union leadership was clearly determined to take this step, despite the progress made in the days before the strike’s launch. We invited the union back to bargaining last week, optimistic that union leaders would finally be willing to reach agreement and end the strike, so all remaining therapists on strike could return to caring for patients.
We all hoped that yesterday would be the day we finally reached an agreement that included all the ways we’ve offered to recognize, reward, and relieve our therapists for their outstanding work during a time in our country when demands for mental health care have never been greater. Our bargaining team came ready to make it happen, having brought forward over the course of bargaining multiple enhancements to compensation, per diem pay, telecommuting, and creative solutions to address indirect patient care workload.
The union has made clear that its primary demands have been for more pay and for union members to spend less time seeing patients. We have addressed both of those demands, effectively reaching agreement on compensation, and seeking to balance the union’s demand for less patient care time with the needs of our patients.
We’ve been clear that our patients cannot afford the union’s aggressive proposal that significantly reduces therapists’ time available to care for them.
Frustratingly, NUHW leadership continued to refuse to resolve any remaining issues or acknowledge how far Kaiser Permanente has already moved for the sake of reaching agreement. Union leaders are apparently content to continue to ask our therapists to sacrifice their financial well-being, and to leave our patients, while refusing to engage in realistic solutions.
In sharp contrast, Kaiser Permanente’s bargaining team has put forth ideas and demonstrated movement to address the very things our employees’ representatives tell us are most important in this contract:
In addition, we communicated that more help is on the way with our approach to invest resources to provide practice support, with staff who will take on duties that are below the respective level of therapists’ clinical licensure so that they will have fewer tasks and can devote time to the higher-level demands on their time when not seeing patients.
Despite all this movement on Kaiser Permanente’s part, the union offered no formal proposal whatsoever that would demonstrate movement from its original position demanding therapists spend less time seeing patients.
To provide the access to care our members need and deserve and to comply with a California law that NUHW helped put in place, we need more therapists, and we need more available appointments. That’s why we continue to aggressively recruit and hire therapists, actively supporting more people to enter and grow in the profession. And it’s why we have proposed protecting patient care time while substantively increasing time to address therapists’ workload, creatively addressing more support for our therapists’ tasks. NUHW’s demands would take us in the opposite direction, by decreasing the time available for therapists to deliver patient care.
It is time for this strike to end. We have sincerely listened to our therapists’ priorities and responded to the demands of their union representatives. We have asked the union to take our offer to our employees and let their voices be heard.
We are grateful to the more than 50% of therapists who have chosen to come to work and care for our patients during the strike. It saddens us that the current strike is putting many of our therapists through unnecessary stress and sacrifice, and disrupting care for patients — while doing nothing to help reach an agreement.
We know the work our therapists do is extraordinary and extraordinarily challenging. We will continue to work to help them deliver the best care possible and support them while they engage in this demanding work.