Los Angeles

Therapists at Kaiser in Pleasanton Stage 1-Day Strike

Mental health therapists at Kaiser Permanente in Pleasanton staged a one-day strike on Tuesday, saying they are fighting for better patient care and better pay in order to retain employees.

Picket lines were set up outside the Kaiser facility at 7601 Stoneridge Drive in Pleasanton from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Kaiser employees also picketed and rallied outside at Kaiser executive offices at 1950 Franklin St. in Oakland late Tuesday morning.

National Union of Healthcare Workers leaders said Kaiser Permanente gave its Northern California mental health clinicians an ultimatum of agreeing by Tuesday to the same contract that 92 percent of them voted to reject two months ago or lose a 3 percent pay increase that management has offered.

"We're not going to let Kaiser bully us or our patients," said Mickey Fitzpatrick, a psychologist at Kaiser's Pleasanton clinic.

Fitzpatrick said, "Kaiser is telling us that if we don't accept its contract offer, they'll take money from us, but Kaiser's scare tactics won't work because our top priority has always been about improving access to care so our patients don't have to wait two months for appointments."

The union said Kaiser mental health clinicians have worked without a contract since October 2018.

Guy Qvistgaard, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente's Diablo Service Area, said, in a statement, "It is disappointing that once again, as a bargaining tactic, the leadership of the NUHW is calling on our mental health therapists to walk away from their patients."

Qvistgaard said, "It is important to know that this is a one-day strike at one medical office and that all of our medical centers in Northern California are open and operating as usual."

Qvistgaard added, "Kaiser Permanente has been in bargaining with the NUHW for over a year and we have presented a proposal to the union that will keep our therapists the best compensated in California, increase the number of therapists, and make more time in therapists' schedules to see patients."

In a separate labor matter, leaders of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West said 80,000 Kaiser employees in six states, including California, and the District of Columbia plan to begin a nationwide, seven-day unfair labor practices strike on Oct. 14.

The union says the strike will be the largest since the Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service in 1997.

The union said picket lines will be set up at Kaiser Permanente hospitals, medical office buildings and other facilities in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"We believe the only way to ensure our patients get the best care is to take this step," Eric Jines, a radiologic technologist at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Jines said, "Our goal is to get Kaiser to stop committing unfair labor practices and get back on track as the best place to work and get care.

There is no reason for Kaiser to let a strike happen when it has the resources to invest in patients, communities and workers."

The union said the workers' national contract expired Sept. 30, 2018, and in December 2018 the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith.

It alleged that Kaiser has continued to commit unfair labor practices since then.

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