Kaiser workers postpone strike after news of CEO's death

About 4,000 psychologists, mental health therapists and other medical professionals at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente have postponed a five-day strike after the death of Kaiser Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson, the union that represents them announced.

Kaiser confirmed that Mr. Tyson, 60, died in his sleep Nov 10. 

"On behalf of our board of directors, employees and physicians, we extend our deepest sympathies to Bernard's family during this very difficult time," Kaiser said in a statement obtained by The Sacramento Bee. "We all will miss his tremendous presence in our lives." 

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers had planned to strike from Nov. 11 to Nov. 15 at more than 100 Kaiser clinics and medical facilities in California. 

But after learning of Mr. Tyson's death, union leaders voted to postpone the strike, the union said in a news release. A new strike date has not been scheduled.

"We offer our condolences to Bernard's family, friends and colleagues," union  president Sal Rosselli said. "Our members dedicate their lives to helping people through tragedy and trauma, and they understood that a strike would not be appropriate during this period of mourning and reflection."

Union members have been calling on Kaiser to reduce patient wait times for therapy appointments and protested what they called barriers to mental health access. 

Kaiser officials have countered that the company's behavioral and mental healthcare received a five-star rating from the state's Office of the Patient Advocate for overall effectiveness and quality of care, the Bee reported, citing an announcement from Kaiser. 

John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser, said last month that the system offers generous wages and benefits and has invested in expanding the mental health workforce.

The union said it remains ready to resume negotiations with Kaiser "to discuss their proposals for improving access to mental healthcare and boosting the recruitment and retention of clinicians by providing them with the same retirement and health benefits that Kaiser has agreed to give 140,000 other employees in contracts settled over the past year."

Kaiser and the union have been working on a contract for about a year. 


More articles on human resources:
Strike averted at Chicago's Mount Sinai, Schwab Rehabilitation hospitals
Hospitals and unions: 4 recent conflicts, agreements
Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians prepare for 5-day walkout 

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