California health care union to protest Joe Biden fundraiser
ABC News(LOS ANGELES) — A health care union in California is set to protest a fundraiser for former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden set to be held at the home of a board member for Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
National United Healthcare Workers — which represents 3,500 mental health clinicians who work for Kaiser Permanente in California — will protest outside the home of Cynthia Telles, a member of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan boards, according to a Tuesday press release.
ABC News reached out to Telles for comment, but have not heard back.
Union President Sal Rosselli told ABC News that his members hope Biden, who has been an advocate for mental health care, will support the union’s position.
“We want to shed more light on the inadequacies of mental health care at Kaiser to frankly force the corporation into, again, doing it right — offer mental health care at the same level as medical care. And we’re hoping the vice president will help us accomplish that,” Rosselli said.
Kaiser Permanente and the National United Healthcare Workers have had a rocky relationship for months. In December, 4,000 Kaiser mental health employees walked off the job for five days, striking over understaffing that led to long wait times for patients.
Wednesday’s protest comes on the heels of several union-centric events Biden has held as he kicks off his 2020 candidacy. A large part of Biden’s campaign message has focused on the middle class, and unions’ roles in creating it.
Biden’s first public event as a candidate took place at a union hall in Pittsburgh on April 29. That same day, Biden was endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters, whose members came out to support Biden during stops in Iowa and Pennsylvania.
But Rosselli says it’s Biden’s past comments on mental health, not his union ties, that he hopes will convince the vice president to support their cause.
“It’s not just about the union part. The quote on our leaflet is a quote from him, which is, ‘A majority of Americans, including children in this country, need mental health care and they’re not getting it,'” Rosselli said.
“I would say to Vice President Biden if I had an opportunity, ‘Nine million Californians who have Kaiser Permanente insurance are paying their monthly premiums and they’re not getting the care that they’re paying for,'” he added.
Rosselli tells ABC News that the union made several attempts to reach out to the Biden campaign, but received no response.
“The executive board members, the president of Kaiser Permanente — these executives are writing big checks to the vice president,” he said. “We’d ask him to use his influence with them to fix their mental health care 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.”
The Biden campaign declined to confirm details of the fundraiser, and declined to comment for this story.
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