The union representing Kaiser Permanente mental health therapists about to enter their seventh week of striking said members "resoundingly rejected a contract offer" from Kaiser late Saturday night.
Workers in Northern California and the Central Valley went on strike Aug. 15. Leaders of the National Union of Healthcare Workers said Sunday the final tally was 1,349 to 222 to reject the latest contract offer.
The union said it hopes the vote will jumpstart negotiations after Kaiser left the bargaining table nearly two weeks ago confident that its therapists would accept its offer.
"We presented Kaiser officials detailed proposals to increase staffing and improve access to care in the first negotiating session 14 months ago, and we won't accept a contract that ignores those issues," Ilana Marcucci-Morris, a Kaiser therapist and a member of the union's bargaining team. "At this point, Kaiser executives can't have any misconceptions about what it will take to secure a contract. We're ready to negotiate around the clock to get an agreement signed as quickly as possible. It's time for Kaiser to return to the bargaining table and end this strike."
Workers want increased staffing and improved access to care for patients who sometimes must wait months for therapy appointments. Both sides have agreed to wage increase, but the union also wants therapists to have more time to see returning patients and perform all of their patient care duties.
A spokesperson for Kaiser said in a statement that the organization "remains committed" to reaching an agreement with the union, but claims that what the union is asking for would be to the detriment of patients.
"It is unfortunate that union leadership pressed members for a no vote, with assurances they would get more from continued contract bargaining. The 'more' that union leaders have identified will reduce access to mental health care for our members, and we have been clear we are not willing to do that," according to the statement.
Nearly 60% of the company's therapists have elected to return to work as the strike continues, Kaiser officials said.