Workers at Sutter Health psychiatric hospital vote to unionize

Workers at Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health's Sutter Center for Psychiatry have voted to become members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, according to statements from the health system and union.

The vote covers 154 workers at the 73-bed psychiatric hospital, including social workers, case managers, therapists, patient support specialists, housekeepers and food service workers.

Workers cite understaffing, low pay and lack of input into the care they provide as contributing factors to joining the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the union said in a Nov. 1 news release. Voting was via mail, and ballots were counted in October.

"I've witnessed the fear in my colleagues' eyes when faced with safety risks and the threat of retaliation from management as they struggle to stretch their paychecks to meet the demands of our current economy," Lindsay Thuy Dao, a recreational therapist, said in the union news release. "Joining NUHW will ensure that we have a guaranteed voice in matters that deeply affect every aspect of our lives."

In a statement shared with Becker's, Sutter Health said it was committed to patient care and respects the unionization vote.

"Our top priority at Sutter Center for Psychiatry has and will continue to be to provide safe, high-quality, affordable care for our patients," Sutter stated. "While we preferred to continue working directly with our employees, without the involvement of an outside third party, we respect our employees' right to choose. We will bargain in good faith with those selected to represent them.

"Sutter is doing everything we can to support the emotional and physical well-being of our caregivers while working to meet national staffing challenges head-on, including offering competitive pay and benefits and hiring additional staff to fill permanent and temporary positions."

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents more than 4,000 psychologists, therapists, social workers and psychiatric nurses in California. Sutter Health is a 23-hospital system.

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