Four thousand National Union of Healthcare Workers members staged a five-day strike this month, putting intense pressure on Kaiser Permanente to settle a contract that treats its workers fairly and provides patients better access to mental health treatment.
Strikers included psychologists, social workers, therapists, psychiatric nurses, addiction medicine specialists, dietitians, audiologists and health educators as well as nurses and engineers striking in sympathy. In total, we staged nearly 70 pickets outside 30 Kaiser facilities from San Diego to Sacramento in what was the largest strike of mental health workers in U.S. history.
The strike, which generated 787 television news reports and more than 100 additional print and web stories, inspired hundreds of patients to share their stories of Kaiser denying them timely care, both at kaiserdontdeny.org and during rallies across the state. We also made mental health parity — and Kaiser’s refusal to achieve it — one of the biggest stories in California during the week of the strike.
As the strike progressed coverage expanded from articles about striking workers to articles about patients telling their Kaiser horror stories.
We’ve collected many of the news reports at NUHW.org, along with videos, photos, and reports from the picket lines. And we’re continuing to post videos, photos, and media coverage to our Facebook and Twitter pages.
The strike also inspired leading advocates for mental health parity to speak out in support of Kaiser clinicians. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy — the author of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 — flew across the country to join striking therapists on the picket line and participate in a public forum with clinicians and patients.
The ball is now in Kaiser’s court. If they decide to treat patients and caregivers with fairness and respect, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and find sensible solutions to the chronic problems that deny patients timely and appropriate care. If not, we’re ready to continue our fight for as long as it takes until they understand they can’t get away with shortchanging mental health care anymore.