On the Picket Line

Striking Kaiser workers demand more staffing for patient care

By Carole Lesnick
January 13, 2020

OAKLAND, Calif. — Thousands of mental health workers went on a five-day strike Dec. 16-20 at up to 100 Kaiser Permanente clinics throughout the state demanding increased staffing and a 3% pay raise. Areas where actions were organized included San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents the strikers, is calling for Kaiser to fix its “broken” mental health system where patients wait months for appointments. At the same time as patients can’t get timely care, therapists are overwhelmed by large caseloads.

“Kaiser has been understaffing mental health clinics across California for many years,” Kirstin Quinn-Siegel, a marriage and family therapist at Kaiser for eight years, told the Militant at a rally here Dec. 20. “After the initial appointment it takes you about six weeks to get the next appointment.”

Sarah Louise, a patient at Kaiser and strike supporter, said, “I’m here today in support of mental health providers because they provide essential medical care I need and sometimes cannot get.”