A union of 2,500 mental health clinicians at Kaiser have voted to authorize a strike, just one week after Kaiser's nurses went on strike for two days.
In September, Kaiser agreed to pay a $4-million fine levied by state regulators. The Department of Managed Health Care found patients were subject to excessively long wait times to get a therapy appointment, or were shuttled into groups when they wanted individual therapy.
Psychiatric social worker Clement Papazian says various fixes, like after-hours appointments, still aren't meeting demand.
"Kaiser has attempted to make some changes, but they're woefully inadequate in really addressing the full nature of the problem," he says. "Our mental health workers are really fed up."
These complaints are part of a long, drawn-out contract negotiation between Kaiser and its psychologists and therapists. Bargaining has been dragging on for four years with no settlement. And the small, scrappy National Union of Healthcare Workers is eager to make a name for itself.