Day 3: Striking Kaiser workers expand picketing to 14 locations

Photo: National Union of Healthcare Workers Twitter page. 

By Bay City News Service

Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians in California expanded their picket lines to 14 locations today, the third day of their five-day strike for more staffing and services for mental health services.

The Kaiser employees today are picketing at 10 locations in Northern California, including seven in the Bay Area, and four in Southern California. 

The picketing in Oakland on Tuesday drew 500 workers and it included a public forum for community members to speak about the consequences of mental health patients who are denied timely medical treatment appointments.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents psychologists, therapists and social workers, says patients often wait more than a month for an appointment because there is only one full-time mental health clinician for every 3,000 Kaiser members in California.

Kaiser representatives say the union's stance is not about improving health care for patients, but about seeking higher wages and benefits.

"The union is demanding changes to performance standards that would reduce, not increase, the availability of mental health care for our patients," said Michelle Gaskill-Hames, chief nurse executive for Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Striking workers say Kaiser pledged to improve appointment wait times three years ago but has failed to do so.

The picketing is scheduled to end today at 4 p.m. but will continue Thursday and Friday.