Kaiser Permanente psychiatrists go on strike for paid leave

Psychologists, social workers and therapists at Kaiser Permanente Clinics in Oakland and Richmond, California will go on a one-day strike to protest Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not a paid holiday.

V strike is due to take place on Monday, January 17th, outside Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Auckland and the company’s headquarters in downtown Auckland. About 200 workers plan to march alongside their allies and elected officials.

The strike is the latest step by Kaiser Permanente employees to address structural racism within the organization, said Ixayann Baez, a marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente Clinic in Auckland.

“We have lost a very skilled black leadership due to a lack of response,” she said. “Because of the very little support that is given to cultural competence, cultural responsiveness and support for black staff.”

Following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, black psychiatrists at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oakland and Richmond began negotiations with health officials who subsequently agreed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day paid leave for all psychiatrists in northern California. Reported by the National Union of Health Workers.

In a statement sent by email, Kaiser said the information provided to Bay Area employees confirming paid leave was incorrect and arose from a local department misunderstanding.

“We are sorry but not surprised that NUHW is trying to abuse this isolated incident as an excuse to end mental health care as part of its negotiating strategy,” Kaiser said. “In fact, NUHW management called for strikes every time their contract was brought up for auction. It is especially disappointing that they are again asking our dedicated and compassionate staff to move away from patients who need us. ”

However, Baez said that over the past two years, the Kaiser has refused to finalize paid leave, claiming that more negotiation and meetings are needed.

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Kaiser said that it has pledged to host Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a scheduled paid vacation throughout the organization from 2023. This year, Kaiser Permanente will expand its MLK Service Day to a weeklong event starting Monday 17 January.

“They keep saying ‘next year’ and it reminds me of how long it took for desegregation to occur,” said Sabrina Chaumette, an adult psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. “It’s as if they keep saying, ‘The time has not come yet.’ I would rather they talk less about how important it is to fight systemic racism and actually stop being a system that perpetuates racism. “

She said this especially devalues ​​black mental health professionals and patients, as Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a federal holiday for nearly 40 years.

Despite meeting with management, sending emails and letters detailing the stresses and difficulties of black clinicians, Chaumette said the staff did not notice the change.

November survey of the 1,500 employees of the National Union of Health Workers found that 62% of Kaiser employees of color who responded experienced racism at work, and 47% of all service providers experienced racism.

In December, Kaiser Permanente agreed to pay $ 11.5 million in an agreement with more than 2,000 current and former black employees in California who have said they are underpaid and not rewarded for promotions due to racism.

As an African-Hispanic clinician, Baez said her experience at Kaiser Permanente was “isolating and exclusive,” largely because she received no additional compensation, resources or support for her leadership in developing culturally competent programs.

The demand for color therapists is high, Chaumette said, as over 20% of Auckland’s population is black and many are looking for doctors who can understand their racial trauma. But she said she is one of fewer than 10 suppliers out of approximately 137 who identify as black at the Kaiser Permanente clinic in Auckland, creating a huge burden and workload.

“We see an organization that will not take the slightest step to counter structural racism and show no urgency to stop the ongoing withdrawal of colored clinicians who can provide all of Kaiser’s patients with culturally competent care,” said Jessica Dominguez, founder. and Leading Physician, Kaiser Permanente La Clínica, Hispanic Program.

Kaiser Permanente said it takes pride in its employees’ efforts to promote diversity and responsive care, and is committed to creating a “highly inclusive, engaging and psychologically safe” space.

“Meeting our long-standing commitment to providing high-quality care, improving access to care and tackling the inequalities, structural racism and injustices that have marginalized our most vulnerable populations begins with our commitment to our workforce, including those who care for the need. in the mental health of our members, ”the organization said in a statement.

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