January 17, 2022

Kaiser Permanente statement on NUHW MLK Day strike

Starting in 2023, MLK Day will be a scheduled, paid holiday across the organization. We are committed to advancing diversity at every level of the organization.

Kaiser Permanente knows that meeting our long-standing commitment to provide high-quality care, improve access to care, and address the inequities, structural racism, and injustices that have marginalized our most vulnerable populations starts with our commitment to our workforce, including those caring for the mental health needs of our members. For more than 75 years we have focused on building a highly inclusive, engaged, and psychologically safe workplace. We work to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential and use their diverse perspectives and strengths to support our mission and provide culturally responsive care. When any one of our valued employees, physicians, or members feels we have fallen short of our commitments, we take it seriously and reinforce our resolve and commitment to do more.

We have acknowledged an earlier miscommunication to some employees at one local department about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, in which well-intentioned but incorrect information was provided in a local department, and it was later corrected. Local leaders have apologized to employees who may have viewed the mistake as in any way conflicting with our deep commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity.

We are currently in contract negotiations with the National Union of Healthcare Workers and think it is unfortunate that the union is using this important topic as a tactic to try to gain leverage in bargaining. It is especially disappointing that they are asking our dedicated and compassionate employees to walk away from patients who need us. Every time we are in contract negotiations with NUHW, they strike, and this time is no different.

Union leaders know the facts around the diversity in our workforce and in the field. Among our mental health staff in Northern California, 37% are comprised of culturally diverse professionals. A total of 8% of therapists at Kaiser Permanente are Black, including 28 Black therapists in our East Bay (Oakland and Richmond) service area, while across the nation just 3% of therapists are Black, according to the American Psychological Association. While we are pleased that our percentages are higher than the national average, we’re committed to advancing diversity at every level of the organization and know we can do more.

We are investing $30 million to build a pipeline for new, culturally diverse mental health professionals across California.  More than 90% of the 2021 class in our Mental Health Scholars Academy was made up of culturally diverse candidates and 44% are bilingual, representing 7 different languages.

MLK Day as a scheduled, paid holiday

Kaiser Permanente has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day for more than 20 years as a day of service to others in our communities. Over the years our employees and physicians have given hundreds of thousands of hours to community service as part of this celebration. This year, we are proud to honor Dr. King and his legacy by expanding our MLK Day of Service to a weeklong event which starts Monday, January 17. It is an important commemoration for us, for our organization, and for our people.

For some time, we have been working to standardize this observance across our enterprise, comprising 8 states and the District of Columbia. We are pleased to have shared last week that Kaiser Permanente will adopt, starting in 2023, MLK Day as a scheduled, paid holiday across the organization. We understand the disappointment that this was not possible to institute in 2022 because of the many operational factors that go into planning and implementing a new paid holiday, including ensuring our members will be able to access needed care, working with our more than 60 labor unions to fulfill our bargaining obligations, and meeting our planned 2022 MLK Day volunteer commitments in our local communities.