Mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente Behavioral Health in Simi Valley are participating in a strike Monday and Tuesday, ahead of a planned five-day statewide strike scheduled to begin Nov. 11, according to a statement from the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Nearly 4,000 striking workers throughout the state are looking to get the same benefits as other unionized workers. Kaiser has refused to restore pensions for mental health clinicians that it “unilaterally rescinded” in 2015, the union said in its statement.
“Every Kaiser employee at my clinic has a pension, except for me and my fellow mental health clinicians,” said Pattye Cruz, a therapist at the Simi Valley clinic. “This makes it harder for Kaiser to recruit and retain qualified clinicians, and leaves patients waiting too long to receive care.”
More than a dozen psychologists, social workers, therapists and psychiatric nurses picketed outside the clinic today; workers from Kaiser’s Lomita Behavioral Health Medical Offices will join Simi Valley workers on Tuesday to rally outside Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center.
Clinicians have maintained an ongoing presence for the past two weeks at the Los Angeles location, according to a statement from NUHW.
“This strike now and the threat for November do not make sense, given where we are in terms of advancing care, offering generous wages and benefits, and investing in expanding the mental health workforce,” John Nelson, vice president of communications for Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement. “It is disheartening that union leadership would be so willing to sacrifice the needs of our patients, just to use them as contract bargaining chips. As always, we have contingency plans in place to ensure that our members continue to receive high quality care they expect and need.”