NUHW members bring patient care issues to the Kaiser Board of Directors
Last week I was one of a crew of Kaiser workers who made a first-ever visit to a Kaiser board meeting. We wanted to discuss the dire state of Kaiser’s mental health services, its woefully inadequate staffing levels, the fines levied against the company, and Kaiser’s hypocrisy in trying to slash our benefits while posting $11.4 billion in profits.
Despite the fact that it’s a “nonprofit,” Kaiser doesn’t disclose the locations or times of the board’s meetings. But thanks to an insider tip, we were able to pay a visit to the high and mighty at the swanky W Hotel in downtown San Francisco.
The board’s fifteen members — wait, make that fourteen — were well-dressed and well-coiffed and had a battery of hotel employees bustling to provide them with all the coffee, croissants, and bottled mountain spring water they would need to thrive throughout the meeting. In addition to the complementary snacks, each board member is paid more than $200,000 to attend six meetings a year.
We approached the board members individually before they entered the board room. After years of resistance and obfuscation from Kaiser managers, we wanted to see what the board had to say. We brought information packets for each board member along with a letter requesting a meeting to discuss the problems facing our patients and caregivers. (Read the letter here.)
But the board was having none of it. Although we were eventually able to deliver packets to all fourteen board members, we were given the brush-off by board member Phil Marineau, who bolted for the urinal rather than shake hands with lowly Kaiser workers (see the video here). Within two minutes we were accosted by five Kaiser security guards and forcefully ejected from the building. As the board members pretended not to notice, stern men with earpieces took us by the arm and brusquely pushed us toward the door.
It was the first time Kaiser workers have set foot inside a Board of Directors meeting, but certainly not the last!
Herb Klar, LCSW
Retired Clinical Social Worker, Kaiser Mental Health, Pleasanton
NUHW Executive Board Member