Workers to strike Sutter psychiatric hospital in Sacramento

NewsDecember 4, 2023

Workers will strike the Sutter Center for Psychiatry on Wednesday, December 6, demanding a fair contract that improves wages and addresses unsafe staffing levels and worsening conditions for patients. The one-day unfair labor practice strike will mark the first-ever work stoppage by nearly 150 workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers at the 73-bed psychiatric hospital.

“We do this work because we want to help people, but we can’t help patients if we’re understaffed and have no say in the care we provide,” said Alton Wood, a licensed clinical social worker at the hospital. “Since COVID, we’ve been getting patients who are sicker, and we’re overwhelmed with constantly trying to help people who are having the worst day of their lives before they see us.”

WHO/WHAT: A one-day strike of hospital workers including mental health therapists, social workers, licensed vocational nurses, housekeepers, kitchen staff and patient care support specialists.

WHEN/WHERE: Workers will walk picket lines from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, December 6 outside the Sutter Center for Psychiatry, 7700 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento. There will be a 10 a.m. rally as well as visits from elected leaders including Sacramento Councilmembers Mai Vang, Katie Valenzuela and Eric Guerra and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.

The Sutter Center for Psychiatry is the only non-profit psychiatric hospital in Sacramento County and a key component of Sacramento County’s behavioral healthcare system. Owned by Sutter Health, the hospital contracts with the county to provide care for adults and children with serious mental health conditions. Medi-Cal recipients account for 57 percent of patients admitted to the hospital.

Workers formed a union two years ago to address low pay and have more say in patient care. As patient acuity levels have increased since the start of COVID, workers report that there’s often not enough staff on duty to provide adequate care. In a recent union survey, 79 percent of respondents reported experiencing understaffing at least once a week, while 58 percent reported experiencing unsafe situations at work due to understaffing.

“We really care about our patients, and we want to make sure they get the care they need to get better,” said Cesar Mardones, a licensed clinical social worker at the hospital. “It seems like Sutter only cares about money, even if it means losing good caregivers and failing its own patients.”

Despite reporting a combined $477 million operating profits in 2021 and 2022, Sutter has refused to invest in its workforce at the psychiatric hospital or the care they provide. After more than 18 months of contract negotiations, Sutter continues to insist on the right to unilaterally cut or eliminate healthcare benefits, and has not improved its offer since workers held an informational picket last month outside the hospital.

The company, which stopped providing annual raises after workers formed a union two years ago, is offering to increase annual salaries by 2.25 percent, which would not keep up with rising prices, forcing more workers to find jobs elsewhere.

Sutter abruptly canceled a bargaining session that had been scheduled for November 30, and no sessions are scheduled prior to Wednesday’s strike. The company has also informed workers that it plans to lock out patient care support specialists, who account for 62 of the 144 striking workers, for two days after the strike, an action that would violate federal labor law governing unfair labor practice strikes.


The National Union of Healthcare Workers is democratic, member-led union that represents more than 17,000 healthcare workers in California and Hawai’i.