Senators urge Kaiser to end 16-week mental health strike

A group of U.S. senators is calling on Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente to reach an agreement with members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers to end the mental health strike in Hawaii, which has been ongoing for 16 weeks. 

In a Dec. 21 letter to Kaiser Chair and CEO Greg Adams, the lawmakers urged Kaiser to reach a good faith agreement for the sake of striking workers and Hawaiians who need mental and behavioral health services, citing recent agreements Kaiser has reached with other workers. 

Union members began an open-ended strike in Hawaii on Aug. 29. Since then, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers who were on strike in Northern California approved a four-year contract with Kaiser to end their walkout. Members of the California Nurses Association at 21 Northern California Kaiser Permanente facilities have also approved a new contract. Additionally, late last year, workers represented by local unions nationwide approved a contract with Kaiser.  However, the strike in Hawaii is ongoing.

"We ask that you make that same effort with workers on strike in Hawaii — even if they represent a smaller population of clinicians," the lawmakers wrote. "Kaiser's mental and behavioral health workers in Hawaii deserve the same level of investment and parity as their mainland counterparts."

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents nearly 60 Kaiser psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, medical social workers, case manager nurses and chemical dependency counselors in Hawaii. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Kaiser said it appreciates and shares the senators' interest in a timely resolution to end the strike.

"We value our mental health professionals and are deeply disappointed that they remain on strike," Kaiser said. "We want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and we want our people back doing what they do best — taking care of patients. To that end, we have been negotiating in good faith and have a very competitive offer on the table, which includes a wage proposal that is above market for mental health professionals in Hawaii."

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