Sutter Health workers vote to unionize

On Monday, the National Union of Healthcare Professionals announced that workers at the Sutter Sutter Mental Health Center are joining unions over staffing and wage problems.

More than 150 social workers, counselors, therapists, patient support specialists, housekeepers and food service workers at the Sutter Psychiatry Center in Sacramento, California, voted to form a union last week. A group of registered nurses in one institution joined California Nursing Association in December.

“I have witnessed fear in the eyes of my colleagues as they face security risks and the threat of management retaliation as they struggle to increase their salaries to meet the needs of our current economy,” says Lindsay Tui Dao, a therapist at Sutter. Center for Psychiatry, according to a press release. “Joining NUHW ensures that we have a guaranteed voice on issues that deeply affect every aspect of our lives.”

Sutter Health, a nonprofit integrated health care system based in Sacramento, will “bargain in good faith” with the union, a spokesman wrote in an email.

“While we preferred to continue to work directly with our employees, without involving a third party third party, we respect our employees’ right to choose,” the spokesperson wrote. “Sutter does everything in our power to support the emotional and physical well-being of our guardians while working to address national staffing issues, including offering competitive wages and benefits and hiring additional staff to fill permanent and temporary positions.”

According to the union, the National Union of Healthcare Professionals represents over 4,000 mental health professionals in California, including psychologists, therapists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses. It has 625 employees at Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health and other workers stepped up union organizing efforts and jobs in an effort to improve working conditions and raise wages.

Members of the International Union of Service Workers – United Health Professionals of the West at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, California, went on strike last month. In January, workers at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, California, voted to join the California Nursing Association

More than 25,000 Kaiser Permanente unionized employees in California and Oregon have voted to authorize strikes since their contracts with the Oakland, California system expired on October 1.

The National Health Workers Union recently added psychiatrists to its ranks, including 34 from Seton Medical Center in Daily City, California, last week. This was announced in a press release by the President of the National Union of Health Workers, Sal Rosselli.

“As the pandemic increases the demand for mental health services, we are receiving more and more inquiries from doctors who see what they can do for each other and for their patients within the union,” Rosselli said.

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