Sutter Health workers vote to organize

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Workers at the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sutter Health are organizing over staffing and wage issues, the National Union of Healthcare Workers said on Monday.

More than 150 social workers, case managers, therapists, patient support specialists, housekeepers and food service workers at the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento, Calif., Voted to form the union last week. A group of registered nurses in the same facility joined the California Nurses Association in December.

“I have witnessed the fear in the eyes of my colleagues at the security risks and the threat of retaliation from management as they struggle to increase their wages to meet the demands of our current economy. “Lindsay Thuy Dao, recreation therapist at Sutter Center for Psychiatry, said in a press release. “Joining NUHW will ensure that we have a guaranteed voice on issues that profoundly affect all aspects of our lives.”

Sutter Health, a Sacramento-based nonprofit integrated health system, will “negotiate in good faith” with the union, a spokesperson wrote in an email.

“Although we prefer to continue working directly with our employees, without the intervention of an outside 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 caregivers while striving to meet national staffing challenges, including offering competitive compensation and benefits and hiring additional staff to fill permanent and temporary posts. “

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents more than 4,000 mental health professionals in California, including psychologists, therapists, social workers and psychiatric nurses, according to the union. Its members include 625 workers at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Workers in healthcare and other fields have stepped up their organizing efforts and actions for employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking better working conditions and higher wages.

Members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West at the Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, California, went on strike last month. In January, employees at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, Calif., voted to join the California Nurses Association.

And more than 25,000 unionized Kaiser Permanente workers in California and Oregon have voted to allow strikes since their contracts with the Oakland, Calif., Based system expired on Oct. 1.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers recently added mental health workers to its ranks, including 34 from Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., Last week. The president of the National Union of Health Workers, Sal Rosselli, said in a press release.

“With the pandemic increasing the demand for behavioral health care, we are getting more and more requests from clinicians who see what they can accomplish for each other and their patients as part of a union,” he said. Rosselli said.


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