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Kaiser mental health workers picketing in Northern California (WSWS Media)

The strike by 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals in Northern California continued into its fourth day Thursday. These psychologists, therapists, chemical dependency counselors and social workers are striking back over years of deteriorating working conditions in San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento and San Jose.

A central issue emerging in the strike is the need for workers to break out of the lockout imposed by the National Union of Health Care Workers (NUHW) and expand the fight against health care workers not only at Kaiser Permanente, but throughout the medical system. .

On Thursday, it was announced that 50 Kaiser mental health professionals in Hawaii would join the strike on August 29 due to insufficient staffing. A report yesterday in Court News wrote: “Hawaii health giant’s accreditation faces ‘corrective action’ after clinicians file complaint documenting long wait times for mental health appointments. National Committee for Quality Assurance investigators concluded these access issues are ‘a potential risk to patient safety’ and said ‘Kaiser’s previous efforts to improve access have been largely ineffective’.

This is a welcome development, but it raises the question of why more Kaiser workers aren’t being called in as well. Kaiser has about 149,000 health care employees plus 16,000 physicians in California. About 700 Kaiser operating engineers in Northern California, who went on strike for three months last year, continue to operate without a contract.

Last November, tens of thousands of Kaiser health care workers, mostly nurses, were poised to strike, only for the union to call it off at the last minute and force a sales contract with sub-inflationary wage increases and no staffing guarantees. . Nurses opposed to the sabotage of the war by UNAC/UNHCP (United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals) formed a follow-up committee to fight to give the war new leadership outside the union bureaucracy.

There is an opportunity for a powerful unified movement of health care professionals against the unending assault on public health. However, this requires a fight by health care workers against the isolation of their strike by health unions.

Al, a mental health professional, told him WSWS that “burnout” was consuming the profession.

“We can’t give the care we want to give,” he said. “We want to get patients appointments in time so we can meet their medical needs, but we can’t do that. We don’t have enough people and meetings are three weeks, even a month, or a month and a half out. We just don’t have the staff for it. We are out of resources and we need more. We are all stretched so thin and people are leaving fast.”

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