Los Angeles (PAI) — To answer the obvious question, no, Joe Biden did not cross a picket line on the way to a fundraiser in Los Angeles on May 8.
But the former vice president, now a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, and thought to appeal to at least one wing of the Labor Movement – older white guys – may have a question or two to answer, too, to other unionists.
Here’s what happened:
Biden arrived, by car, at the Los Angeles driveway of Cynthia Talles, a rich board member of the Kaiser Foundation, the dominant voice in the Kaiser Permanente Health System, one of California’s huge hospital systems. She hosted a closed-door fundraiser for the ex-Veep.
On the sidewalk, peacefully protesting Kaiser’s conduct, were members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers West, the union that represents thousands of Kaiser workers.
It’s also the union that’s been in a year-long struggle with Kaiser and its board over the hospital chain’s refusal to provide adequate mental health services – a refusal which has drawn the attention of California health officials, too. In 2013 alone, the state fined Kaiser $4 million for violating its Mental Health Services Parity Act, a prior union statement said.
And that’s what the NUHW members around Talles’s driveway were talking about.
“We were there to protest, not picket,” said NUHW spokesman Matt Artz. “The gates of the driveway opened, and Biden’s car went in.”
NUHW President Sal Rosselli told British media Biden should refuse money from Kaiser honchos. “He should take our side in this dispute,” Rosselli said.
Last December, Kaiser forced its mental health clinicians, NUHW members, into a five-day strike. They demanded Kaiser hire more therapists, stop forcing patients needing one-on-one care into group therapy, and demanded Kaiser reduce months-long wait times.
Kaiser has refused to spend more to lower the clinician-to-patient ratio, even though it earned $2.5 billion last year and has $42 billion in reserves. The union has recently stepped up its campaign through radio ads in key markets, including L.A.