Kaiser mental health workers in Hawaii plan open-ended strike

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers are set to begin an open-ended strike Aug. 29 at Kaiser Permanente's mental healthcare facilities in Hawaii.

The union represents about 50 mental health clinicians in Hawaii, who plan to join their California colleagues on picket lines, according to an Aug. 18 National Union of Healthcare Workers news release shared with Becker's. About 2,000 unionized mental health workers began an open-ended strike Aug. 15 at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California.

The union and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente are negotiating an initial contract on behalf of psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and chemical dependency counselors at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Hawaii, according to a health system statement shared with Becker's. Kaiser said: "We continue to bargain in good faith and are committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement. We have the greatest respect and gratitude for our mental health professionals, and we are dedicated to supporting them in their important work."

The union contends Kaiser Permanente's mental health clinics in Hawaii are understaffed, leading to dangerously long wait times for therapy sessions that surpass clinical guidelines. "Through strike activity, our members are using their power to make Kaiser stop treating mental healthcare as a second-class service and start providing care that its paying customers are legally entitled to receive," Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said in the union release.

"We take any potential disruption of services very seriously and have plans to ensure our members and patients continue to receive safe, high-quality care," Kaiser said in its statement. "… We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this event may cause, and if appointment or service changes are required we will contact any affected patients."

Kaiser Permanente mental health workers also went on strike in May.

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