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Dec 23, 2019

Special Episode: Curt and Katie talk about the recent NUHW- Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Worker Strike. Katie interviews a National Union of Healthcare Workers representative, Dr. Kenneth Rogers. We then both reflect on the interview and a statement from Kaiser Permanente, especially related to the implications for the profession as a whole.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The implications of the strike for all mental healthcare workers
  • A statement from Kaiser Permanente
  • An interview with Dr. Kenneth Rogers, shop steward and member of the bargaining team for NUHW
  • The focus of the strike – looking at what the Union is requesting
  • What a shop steward is, how the union works, what the bargaining table looks like
  • The bureaucracy and distance that impacts the bargaining
  • The different perspectives of each side
  • The complexity of the decision making, the strategy of Kaiser Permanente
  • The possibilities that Katie sees related to state-of-the-art mental health services
  • The goal of transforming the model of care
  • The inefficiencies that lead to lower productivity, the focus needed to improve care
  • The positives in the current Kaiser proposal
  • The hope of coming together to work on the future of mental healthcare
  • The lack of parity in how mental healthcare workers are treated versus other professionals in Kaiser, looking at the perceived payment philosophy
  • NUHW goal for the mental health system of care – solely getting to the basic standard of care
  • The lack of trust between Kaiser and NUHW and the complexity of the decision-making
  • Rogers’ reflections on the survival guide tips and the impact of the strike on clinicians and patients, advice for the striking clinicians
  • The strong desire on both sides for this “wasteful strike” to be over
  • Reflections from Curt and Katie
  • The progress made with repeated short strikes (or lack of progress)
  • The goals and the intersection that seems to be lost in the bargaining process
  • Perspective on the problem from both Curt and Katie
  • The business assessment on lost revenue
  • The impact of Kaiser’s payment philosophy on other workplaces (Curt busting out some economic theory from Richard Thayler)
  • The importance of the union work on wages in other workplaces
  • Parity for mental health professionals and what that means for mental health parity
  • Call to action to stay informed, step up and advocacy


Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links.

Kaiser Permanente Statement:

Statement regarding NUHW’s Planned Strike December 16-20, 2019 from:

Arlene Peasnall, Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer

Despite the National Union of Healthcare Workers’ (NUHW) decision to strike, it is important our members know that our hospitals and medical offices remain open. Our commitment to patients comes first. We are working hard to deliver the high-quality care and services members and patients need. Anyone in need of urgent mental health or other care will receive the services they require. Where necessary, we will call members to reschedule some non-urgent appointments. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this unnecessary strike.

We have been jointly working with an external, neutral mediator to help us reach a collective bargaining agreement with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The mediator recently delivered a proposed compromise to both sides that we are seriously considering; however, the union has rejected it and announced plans to strike instead of working through the mediated process.

This is NUHW’s sixth noticed strike within a single year. We believe that NUHW’s repeated call for short strikes is disruptive to patient access, operational care and service and is frankly irresponsible.  Although Kaiser Permanente will make every effort to minimize patient disruption, we are again forced to devote valuable resources needed elsewhere in our organization to instead address the continuity of care and our operations while these employees strike. 

A strike does nothing to help our important work to advance care, nor does it help us achieve a mutually beneficial contract. All it does is put our members in the middle of bargaining, which is not fair to them, especially during the holidays when rates of depression can spike and our patients are counting on their caregivers to be there.

Rather than calling for a strike, we ask that NUHW’s leadership continue to engage with the mediator and Kaiser Permanente to resolve these issues.

National Union of Healthcare Workers: NUHW

NUHW Facebook Page

Kaiser Don’t Deny

Union Representative Dr. Kenneth Rogers bio:

Kenneth Rogers, Psy.D. is a psychologist who has worked with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group for the past 16 years. He has worked at the Fremont, Santa Clara, and Campbell Medical Centers in the past and currently works at the Elk Grove clinic near South Sacramento. He has been a shop steward for NUHW since its inception in 2009 and has been on the NUHW Executive Board since 2015. Dr. Rogers was a member of the 2010-2015 contract bargaining team and he remains a member of the current bargaining committee since July, 2018.

Los Angeles Times Article

The Kaiser Permanente ACE Study

Economic Theory: Nobel Prize Winning Economist Richard Thayler – Anomalies: Inter-industry Wage Differentials


Relevant Episodes:

Modern Therapists Strike Back


Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)


Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour


Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.


Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group



Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano