Workers gathered Wednesday, February 21 outside the Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park facility to protest the company’s alleged plans to lay off or outsource nearly 800 jobs in Los Angeles county — a move protesters said would undermine patient care.
The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) union, which represents over 55,000 California Kaiser Permanente employees, said Kaiser plans to lay off 652 employees at its call centers in Woodland Hills, Baldwin Park, and Hollywood.
The union said Kaiser Permanente’s profits have increased over 60 percent in the first three quarters of 2017. The union added that the healthcare company has $32 billion in reserves.
Jobs will allegedly be moved to San Diego, Riverside and Fontana where the union said positions would be paid $2 per hour less.
The union said Kaiser reportedly also plans to outsource 81 pharmacy warehouse jobs in North Hollywood, and 61 in Downey. The jobs would then be contracted to an outside company where workers would receive less pay and receive fewer benefits, according to the union.
“The healthcare giant said it wants to reduce wage rates by 20 percent in California’s Central Valley and 10 percent in the Sacramento area,” added the union in a released.
Another protest took place at the company’s Downey facility during the same time. One at the Woodland Hills facility was held on Thursday, February 22.
The protests were part of the 32 being held across the state between February 14 and March 15 by caregivers at Kaiser Permanente-owned facilities.
‘Simply not true’
Kaiser Permanente said in a statement that the SEIU-UHW claims were “misleading” and “inaccurate.” The healthcare company said no announcements or wage proposals for SEIU-UHW members have been made.
“The union’s claims that we have announced 700 layoffs at our call centers is simply not true,” the company said.
Kaiser Permanente said that after discussions with unions including SEIU-UHW, it was determined that an external pharmacy storage and distribution network was the best recourse in meeting current and future needs of its members.
“The exact number of positions affected by this decision has not yet been determined, so the union’s claims are premature and may in fact be wrong. We will be scheduling more sessions with our union partners over the next few months to fully address the effects of this decision. As we determine the potential impact to employees, plans will be finalized and shared with them,” the statement added.
‘I love my job’
Protesters gathered outside the Baldwin Park facility donning purple scrubs and holding up purple signs that read “Equality Across Kaiser“ and “Outsourcing Hurts Communities”.
Corrine Martine, an appointment clerk for the call center at the Baldwin Park facility, said she’s been working there for 19 years and wasn’t planning on leaving quite yet.
“I need my job because of my benefits — I’m not ready to leave this company. I plan on staying here as long as I can,” Martine told the Asian Journal, adding that she has a disabled child.
She said the possibility of having to relocate would be hard for many of the workers who live nearby like herself.
“And then to relocate and maybe find out down the line that they just want to dissolve the jobs? That would be a devastating hardship because everybody assumes that they would have this job. They pack up, follow the company, and then they lose it,” said Martine on the possible consequences.
“I really love my work. I love to talk to patients. I love to hear their stories and how I can help them,” she said. “I come in before a nurse or a doctor. I am the first person you talk to before anything. I think patients love that kind of system, they love that kind of care, and I think they want to keep that going.”
Mark Matthews, a lead x-ray technologist at the hospital, came out during his break to support the protesters. He’s worked at the Baldwin Park facility since it opened 20 years ago.
Like Martine, Matthews has a long history with Kaiser Permanente — 38 years as an employee and member, he said. Three of his children were born at Kaiser, and his mother was also employed by the company.
“When you hear about outsourcing, the takeaways, the charges, and they’re making more and more money. To me this is corporate greed — American greed at its finest. We don’t need that,” said Matthews.
He added, “We’re doing great things for the patients we’re taking care of and we should get the return on investment that we’re putting into this. I’m a Kaiser member — I love my job. I love the organization I work with, but treat us with dignity. Treat us with justice. Healthcare justice. That’s what I want.”