Today’s News & Commentary — December 17, 2019
This week, thousands of therapists, psychologists, and social workers are picketing Kaiser Permanente medical centers throughout California. Kaiser’s contract with the National Union of Healthcare Workers expired in September 2018 and the two sides are still in negotiations for a new contract. Mental health clinicians are particularly concerned about the long waits for patients seeing access to mental health services. After an over-the-phone intake, patients will often wait four to eight weeks to see a therapist in person. Kaiser marriage and family therapist Kristin Quinn Siegel said, “What I want to ask Kaiser executives is, ‘Would you want to send your loved one to our clinic? Would you want your family member with severe depression or debilitating anxiety or some other mental health condition to be seen once every six to eight weeks? I don’t think they would. I think they would want their loved one to get more treatment than we are able to provide.”
On Sunday, the St. Louis County Teamsters Local 320, representing about 180 public works employees, voted to authorize a strike if the county’s healthcare benefits are not improved. The majority of the workers who will be striking are plow drivers, mechanics, and bridge workers.
In France, hundreds of thousands of people are participating in a general strike in protest of President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to forge a single pension system. Labor unions oppose Macron’s proposal because the plan is likely to decrease pensions for many workers and take away some of the benefits afforded to specific groups of workers, like railway workers’ earlier retirement age. Now in its thirteenth day, the strike has brought rail services in the state to a standstill. Paris’s bus and metro operator Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) has attempted to strike break by entering into deals with private transportation companies, including Uber and Lime, to offer discounted rides within the city. Harold Meyerson, writing for NBC News, believes that American organized labor can learn from the French protests.
Lee Sang-hoon, chairman of Samsung Electronic’s board, has been convicted of violating South Korean labor laws. Sang-hoon, along with more than twenty other current and former Samsung officials, were found guilty of disrupting union activities at Samsung. He has been sentenced to eighteen months in jail.