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NUHW members push Kaiser to honor Juneteenth


It took Kaiser Permanente four decades — and a strike by its NUHW-represented mental health therapists in Oakland and Richmond — to finally recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday. Now NUHW members are taking action to make Kaiser recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

This Juneteenth, NUHW members spent their lunchtime collecting signatures from their fellow Kaiser employees on a petition calling for Kaiser to make Juneteenth a paid holiday and urged patients and community members to email Kaiser CEO Greg Adams to demand the same.

As of now, more than 1,400 Kaiser employees have signed the petition.

“This makes me very proud to be part of NUHW,” said Rita Casanova, a steward who is one of only two Black therapists at Kaiser’s Modesto clinic. “It makes me feel supported that something that is significant to my culture, and is a federal holiday, isn’t being swept under the rug.”

Juneteenth commemorates when Major General Gordon Grainger rode into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to order the local government to free the 250,000 Black people still in bondage — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had officially abolished slavery

A native of Louisiana who started working at Kaiser two years ago, Casanova grew up celebrating Juneteenth and was surprised that her new employer still refused to make Juneteenth a paid holiday three years after President Biden declared it a federal holiday.

“It’s very disappointing to me as a Black woman from the south,” Casanova said. “To not be able to celebrate a hugely important day when we were freed and we were supposed to be treated as humans makes me feel like I’m not being seen. It’s a big miss for Kaiser especially when they’re talking about equality, diversity and inclusiveness.” 

While Kaiser promotes itself as an inclusive employer, it didn’t make Martin Luther King, Jr. a paid holiday until 2023 — one year after NUHW members in Oakland and Richmond held a one-day strike on the holiday to protest Kaiser’s refusal to honor it.

After forcing Kaiser’s hand on the King holiday, NUHW members throughout Northern California this year began discussions about organizing to make Kaiser recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday. A committee was formed with many committee members pledging to leaflet their coworkers and inform the public on Juneteenth.

Public leafleting took place outside Kaiser facilities in Santa Clara, Richmond, San Leandro, San Jose, and Oakland. In Modesto, Casanova said therapists had a potluck of traditional Juneteenth foods, while also getting their coworkers to sign the petition.

In San Leandro, Lisa Galván, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked at Kaiser for 23 years, got a very positive response when she collected signatures on the Juneteenth petition. “People were happy to sign it,” she said. “One comment I heard was, ‘I was wondering when someone would come around regarding this.’ ”

Kaiser employees are still eligible to sign the petition, which can be found here.

Non-Kaiser employees who want to support the effort are encouraged to email Kaiser CEO Greg Adams. Instructions can be found on this leaflet.

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