Broken promise on MLK holiday–Civil rights strike at Kaiser Hospital

Oakland

Somehow, I thought they made Martin Luther King Day a paid holiday for all workers. Well, it seems Kaiser Medical Center didn’t get the word. That’s why psychologists, social workers and therapists from Kaiser’s Oakland and Richmond, California, clinics hit the bricks in a one-day strike on Jan. 17. 

Protest outside Kaiser Oakland clinic Jan. 17. Credit: National Union of Healthcare Workers

“It was Dr. King’s persistent determination that helped desegregate hospitals,” said therapist Sabrina Chaumette. “Kaiser talks a good game when it comes to social justice, but they don’t practice what they preach.” Kaiser said it wouldn’t begin to honor the King holiday for mental health workers until 2023.

“Kaiser pays a lot of lip service to racial justice,” she said, “but when it comes to taking action, it’s always ‘wait till next year’.” Chaumette’s schedule is so overbooked that new patients must wait four months for an appointment. Her 900-word commentary on the struggles clinicians and patients of color face at Kaiser was recently published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Dominguez, founder and lead clinician at Kaiser’s La Clinica, said, “We are living in a time of reckoning, a time when people of color are no longer content with the status quo — because the status quo has never included people of color. Status quo is white supremacy, and it’s baked into the Kaiser system. We will not give in because mental health is a social justice issue.”

The one-day “unfair labor practice” strike was called by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. “This strike is about honoring the legacy of Dr. King,” said Ixayanne Baez, a family therapist. “Without his work in desegregation, our clinics wouldn’t even be allowed to have Black clinicians.” (nuhw.org/)

Dave Welsh

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Dave Welsh

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