Workers with a California healthcare union gathered Wednesday to voice their disapproval as 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden attended a big-dollar fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of a Kaiser Foundation board member.
As HuffPost reported, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) "is locked in a bitter, yearslong fight with Kaiser over mental health staffing levels in the healthcare provider's California facilities."
Union representatives called on Biden—who is presenting himself on the campaign trail as a "union man"—to cancel the event, which was hosted by Kaiser Foundation board member Dr. Cynthia Telles. The Kaiser Foundation is a subsidiary of the healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente.
NUHW president Sal Rosselli said he never heard back from Biden's team.
"Kaiser, Kaiser, you can't hide, we can see your greedy side!" union members chanted outside of Telles's home.
Shouting outside Joe Biden event.
Unionized mental health workers protest for new contract outside home of Kaiser Permanente board member...who is hosting Biden fundraiser. Demanding the former VP join them @nbcla pic.twitter.com/vKzkKRvMfL
— Conan Nolan (@conanNBCLA) May 8, 2019
According to an invitation seen by HuffPost, average contributions at the event ranged from $250 per person to $2,800—the maximum for individual donations in a presidential primary.
"The executive board members, the president of Kaiser Permanente—these executives are writing big checks to the vice president," Rosselli told ABC News ahead of Wednesday's event. "We'd ask him to use his influence with them to fix their mental healthcare system, to work with their clinicians to do it, to urge Cynthia Telles to meet with the psychologists—her fellow psychologists—to learn the inadequacies of the current system."
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John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser Permanente, attacked the union's demonstration in a statement shortly after the fundraiser began.
"This is a publicity stunt by union leadership disguised as a bargaining tactic aimed at disrupting a board member's event," Nelson said.
NUHW vice president Elizabeth White responded on Twitter, "This is no stunt!"
This is no stunt! 4,000 of us Kaiser mental healthcare workers were on the picket line in December 2018. Kaiser has a mental health access crisis and Kaiser knows it! #KaiserDontDeny @NUHW https://t.co/g1JuERnUj9
— Elizabeth W (@elizbwhite) May 8, 2019
According to HuffPost, NUHW "has long alleged that Kaiser understaffs its mental health clinics, leading to long waits for vulnerable patients. The union has demanded that Kaiser hire more therapists and put pay and benefits on par with other employees in medical care."
On Twitter, NUHW said Biden's past "statements about mental health will ring hollow if he can't make them directly to giant HMOs like [Kaiser]."