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Kaiser Workers’ Unsung Win, with Rashad Pritchett and Theresa Myles

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Black Work Talk
Black Work Talk
Kaiser Workers' Unsung Win, with Rashad Pritchett and Theresa Myles

Rashaad Pritchett and Theresa Mtles of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) join hosts Bianca Cunningham and Jamala Rogers for this episode of Black Work Talk. They delve into the challenges faced by Black healthcare support workers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rashaad and Theresa recount their experiences of being on the frontlines during the pandemic, tackling fears amongst Black workers as they struggled to perform their duties without proper PPE or safe staffing, lacking proper respect and benefits.

They also discuss SEIU-UHW’s monumental healthcare strike in October 2023, which saw participation from 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers across four states. After the strike, the union won a historic contract ratified by over 90% of the membership. This conversation focuses on union organizing for healthcare workers, highlighting the importance of establishing connections with workers and dissecting the tactics which they can use to navigate the landscape of fighting for basic safety in the workplace during the pandemic.

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[00:00:00] Bianca Cunningham: This podcast is presented by Convergence, a magazine for Radical Insights.

[00:00:11] Rashad Pritchett: So this isn’t cold and flu season. This is coronavirus though, not coronavirus. Like we know it now where somebody might catch it though. We were in our minds, you know, like this is black work talk though. So like a lot of black people don’t like to go to the doctor as is. So now we’re hearing that you might get [00:00:30] coronavirus.

[00:00:30] People are like, well, let me get my affairs in order. You know, let me say my goodbyes and that, like, it was that serious though. Because people are dying. People are dropping dead. Yeah. You see the news every day. You know, you’re on quarantine. You can’t come outside and get, get food and stuff like that though.

[00:00:43] So now here it is. I’m at work trying to just make my wages though, and it’s like, I can’t even get a mask.

[00:00:57] Bianca Cunningham: Welcome to Black Work Talk, the podcast voice of Black [00:01:00] workers, leaders, activists, and intellectuals exploring connections between race, capitalism, labor, and culture, and the struggle for democratic, progressive, governing power. I’m your host, Bianca Cunningham. 

[00:01:13] Jamala Rogers: And I’m your co host, Jamilah Rogers. On this episode, we’ll be joined by Teresa Miles and Rashad Pritchett, both unionized workers with SEIU UnitedCare Health Workers, who recently participated in a three day walkout strike of [00:01:30] 75, 000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers.

[00:01:32] across four states, and we’re always happy to celebrate victories here at Black Work Talk, and so we are anxious to hear about the new contract that addressed pay and staffing issues.

[00:01:48] On this show, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking and debating with folks who are already active in the labor movement, but there are a number of people who are going to be new to this movement and who want to be engaged, [00:02:00] who don’t know the landscape. Of union organizing and rather than them hit those landmines and, and, and their campaigns blow up before they even have a chance to get started.

[00:02:13] We want to offer some organizing tips. So here to talk to you about that is my co host, Bianca. Bianca, what are we talking about 

[00:02:21] Bianca Cunningham: today? So Jamala, today we’re going to talk about anti union campaigns. This is the phase where you [00:02:30] have filed at the National Labor Relations Board, right? Uh, ideally with 80%, um, of your coworkers signed on to say that they want to have an election for a union.

[00:02:40] And this is the. first time that, uh, it is officially would be public once you file that the, hopefully the employer is now getting tipped off about your campaign if they haven’t been alerted to it sooner by one of the loose lips, um, of your coworkers. So if you’ve made it to this point, [00:03:00] congratulations, without them knowing, congratulations, you’re doing better than most other, um, units who do file.

[00:03:07] But yeah, once the employer finds out about your campaign, I have a funny story about how our employer found out that I can say in a second, but once the employer finds out about your campaign, cue scene for them to try to cause conflict. They’re going to try to increase the fear and just increase the tension and like the discomfort generally in the workplace.

[00:03:29] Um, [00:03:30] everything is going to be about you all wanting to support a union. So whether good things are, you know, anything that bad that’s happening, it’s going to be because you all are wanting to bring a union in there. It’s also going to be like other ways and tactics for them to intimidate the workers. I have a million examples running through my head right now.

[00:03:53] But in general, the playbook is always the same. I mean, this is like the really shocking thing for people. [00:04:00] They don’t change it according to employer or the type of people who work there. It works across the board generally. And so they have kept it really the same. same. Um, and so things that they will do are things like predicting layoffs or that there’ll be office closings or plant closings.

[00:04:16] You know, if you all do decide to vote, um, for the union, there’s stuff about, you know, scaring employees with warnings that the union is going to take you on strike and that the union is super violent and full of quote unquote union thugs who will, [00:04:30] you know, hurt people and, um, take you into dangerous situations.

[00:04:35] Sometimes they talk about, um, uh, like. Unspoken threats or, you know, like disciplinary actions, kind of like arbitrary disciplinary actions or things that could happen to you that they, you know, that they can’t explicitly say, but they might hint at it to try to get you to make those, that connection that they see you as a supporter and that they’re willing to retaliate against you, even if it is, um, illegal.

[00:04:59] [00:05:00] might also talk about, you know, third party or the outside organization. The union is going to come between, you know, the me and you is like something that the manager might say. It’s like, I can no longer communicate directly with you. I have to, uh, communicate with your representative, which is absolutely not true, but it’s a way to instill some fear into you or some reservations into you about wanting to, uh, vote to have union representation.

[00:05:26] There also could just. Be stuff about, you know, they’re trying to [00:05:30] educate you, quote unquote, on the dues or how much that costs, or really they could just ask for another chance to improve working conditions. Hey, listen, we didn’t know about this. Now we’re here, we care. Give us a chance to make it. Right.

[00:05:42] Right. So there’s a couple of things to remember. Um, if you encounter any of those. Number one, the union is not an outside organization. The union is only as effective as you and your co workers. A union is an organization that has some resources, some legal support, some [00:06:00] information on your rights that they can help and assist you go through the process.

[00:06:04] But the quality and the strength and the militancy of your union and Any other decisions that you all like that are made are going to be on you and your co workers because you all are the union. So that’s number one. There is no outside party. It’s how you and your co workers decide to move collectively.

[00:06:21] Um, and I think the second thing is just to remember, um, that Although they do, you know, make these indirect [00:06:30] threats, they know that they don’t want to break the law because those are things that you can file, um, you know, charges that you can file at the National Labor Relations Board. And so they’ll just come to the edge of breaking the law, right?

[00:06:42] They’ll just say the thing that’s right before the explicit, you know, thing, talking about discipline, talking about what the consequences will be if you all vote for union. Um, and it’s actually pretty common, um, for all employers to do this. So, I wouldn’t be, you know, that phased if you [00:07:00] hear them making those kind of empty threats.

[00:07:01] I would just say document them and anything that they bring up to you during this phase, whether they’re improvements, whether they’re threats, ask to get it in writing because they can’t make any promises to you that are outside of the process that’s designated. I don’t know about you, Jamala, but I assume that you have a million stories about this.

[00:07:19] Like some of the things that I saw my employer do, um, well, definitely taking people down into the basement where there was like no cell phone service so they can, you know, intimidate you, ask [00:07:30] you, you know. Asking me things about whether I like my job, how long I’ve been there, telling me stories about how long they’ve been there and how much they put into the company, saying that it would be a shame, you know, like if a union were to come in.

[00:07:43] But hypothetically, right? Um, I’ve also seen them, you know, uh, intimidate workers, um, and threaten workers who were here on work visas, our, uh, new citizens to talk about how, you know, they really needed this job for their work visa. Um, and it would be [00:08:00] really a shame if any of that paperwork got messed up because, you know, the company took a chance on them and hiring them when they came to this country, things like that.

[00:08:07] I would also say I’ve also seen them, um, even intimidate somebody who was going through a divorce and having a legal custody, um, with her ex. I’ve seen them intimidate her to say that, like, she shouldn’t be involving herself in these types of situations as far as unionizing. Like, she has bigger things to worry about what happens if you lose custody of your daughter.

[00:08:28] So, I’ve kind of, [00:08:30] like, seen it all. Uh, and, you know, they are very creative to the ways that they try to intimidate, um, you all. But I think you said this in an earlier episode, which is, like, this is why technology is so important. You know, me and my co workers used, you know, back in the day, nobody shaved me group me.

[00:08:48] We use group me to, you know, everybody was in the same group chat. You know, as I mentioned, we weren’t all in the same work site. We worked in separate stores. And so, you know, one store would report, Hey, this [00:09:00] big, you know, person just came in, whether it was the CEO, whether it was the CFO, whether it was the vice president of blah, blah, blah, whatever they were, right.

[00:09:06] This person just came in. This is what they said to us. This was who they. spoke to in the back and then having the people in the back saying, this is what they said to me. Okay. I heard them say they’re headed to you, you know, this, this store next. And so giving you all the heads up, I mean, just like having that space where people can just, you know, go to, to vent and to say, I’m scared.

[00:09:25] And to say like, what do I say? Or for us to workshop together, how we’re going to [00:09:30] respond or just be prepared for the things that they were throwing at us, which was everything from threats. We call it a little bit of honey, a little bit of vinegar. You know, they gave us a little bit of threats and a little bit of sternness.

[00:09:40] And then they turn around and give us like, you know, free food and say that they really are invested in wanting to change things. Um, they had no idea what was happening. And so you get a little bit of all that. Um, It is really the wildest time of the union organizing process, I have 

[00:09:55] Jamala Rogers: to say. No, it is when you really get to see the character of [00:10:00] who you’re working for, um, because there is an array of wicked tactics that they use.

[00:10:06] Though, and to your point, and just to lift that up more, is they also will add the honey. I remember, uh, in one case where we were organizing, they actually gave a bonus that came out from nowhere. And then that summer we had a big company picnic. So then people started to say, well, maybe we don’t need a union.[00:10:30] 

[00:10:30] I go, Oh boy, here we go. The goodies are getting piled on and people are having second thoughts, but then the issue becomes, okay, what if there’s a issue that there’s disagreement about and you have nowhere. To air that, but to the people who are part of the grievance. So it really is just being, as a student, you can be in the organizing and letting people know all the different ways that people will be coming at you.

[00:10:59] They won’t all [00:11:00] look mean and bad and ugly, but trust and believe. It’s all about making sure that there’s no union on the, in that workplace. 

[00:11:10] Bianca Cunningham: Absolutely. Jamala, what you just said reminding me of something that I should have said off the bat. This is Black Work Talk. So one of the first things my company did when we did go public, so first of all, we didn’t have any loose lips in our ship, right?

[00:11:24] We were moving in silence and violence as we say, right? Um, so, so they had zero [00:11:30] idea up until the time that we filed that we were gonna file, that we were even doing any union act. They had no idea. They were completely blindsided. I remember about to close at the store. With my assistant manager there, she gets a call from one of the other stores and the store manager is asking her, talking to her, and all of a sudden she looks around, I’m sitting right next to her, and we’re all on the floor, so all of a sudden she looks around and she starts looking at our wrists.

[00:11:51] Well, one of the things that we have done when we have people sign that manifest. or whatever that was, right? Our statement is that we have them put [00:12:00] on a wristband that says CWA strong or CWA. Yes. I think is what it said. We all have the wristbands on. They didn’t even know she looked around and she was like, yeah, they all are wearing wristbands and then it was like emergency, emergency, emergency.

[00:12:12] All of a sudden she’s like, I can’t even leave. We’re not closing. I have to go into a meeting and we were all chuckling, like, okay, we did it. That’s the first. step. Now they see we’re out here and we have majority support. So after they realized that one of the first things that they did, Jamal, it was like me and my, so I live in Brooklyn, [00:12:30] me and my coworkers, mostly Afro Caribbean workforce, right?

[00:12:33] Everybody’s, um, you know, everybody’s of color, right? Regardless of across the seven stores for the most part, the first thing they did was replace all of our assistant managers and managers who were white. For the most part, with exceptions, but for the most part, they replaced all those folks with black folks.

[00:12:51] All of a sudden, they were transferring all the black faces from outside the district inside, so what was that about, right? It just got [00:13:00] complicated. Okay, thank you. So maybe we’ll soften our position against the union if we start to see some kinfolk, skinfolk, I don’t know, skinfolk around us, right? So that was their first thing.

[00:13:12] It was so egregious though that our district manager is actually was a white guy named Mike. Famous for dropping the n word in a conversation that we had recorded all right because we were already we were always like gathering you know receipts right that’s us they fired him or they moved him i don’t know if they fired him or moved him [00:13:30] whatever but they replaced him with a black guy named mike and so we started calling him black mike uh and you know it was just so obvious we were so offended but it’s like one of the ways that the boss can use racism right and like race to try to manipulate the outcome for themselves and for their own pockets, right?

[00:13:49] So that was the first thing that they did. The second thing they did was like, I mentioned most of us were Black, Brown. There was one store, South Brooklyn, Russian store, Russian [00:14:00] speaking store. So it means, you know, those folks. You know, we’re not black speaking Russians, right? They were white. And the second thing they did after they replaced all the managers, except for in that store, they went to that store and told them, Hey, you all might’ve seen your coworkers.

[00:14:14] Cause we filed for all the stores, including them. Um, but there were really small stores. So we, their numbers didn’t really affect us. You know, you saw your coworkers, they filed for a union. you know, they’re lazy. They don’t want to do their jobs. You all don’t have anything in common with them. Right. And [00:14:30] it was all about like their ability to speak their own language.

[00:14:33] They have like a slower kind of traffic store. And they were seeing that as like a community store in a sense, right. Because they were serving the immediate, like Russian speaking community around. And so they like actually use that store to promote snitches and as assistant managers and some of our other stories, but also went to that store and was like, that was actually our one holdout.

[00:14:53] for union support. I think out of the whole store, there was only one person in the store who supported the union. Um, and [00:15:00] so also using race in that sense, right, to try to divide them from us to say like, you all are, you’re not the same kind of person. So dog whistling in there or coded racism there about us being lazy.

[00:15:12] right, are not wanting to do their jobs, them having it good and not seeing themselves as being connected to our fight necessarily. It’s important to note though, uh, once we did win the union, that was the first store to be closed. So, 

[00:15:26] Jamala Rogers: yeah, well, it’s, it’s interesting that they [00:15:30] play that, that race car, because that is one of the things that, uh, often comes out about affirmative action, that black and brown people are advancing when they weren’t qualified.

[00:15:42] And so when action like that happens, it certainly could be said, well, wait a minute, they weren’t even in line for this, but all of a sudden out of the clear blue, they’re now the store manager. And it really does, uh, it’s a blow to, uh, making sure that there’s, uh, [00:16:00] interracial solidarity that we are. Uh, working with, you know, all of the workers in ways that we can to build, uh, unity, but those little digs don’t help at all.

[00:16:13] And I think you, you probably will agree with me, Bianca, that the tactics line up where your organizing campaign is. So If you’re just starting, that’s when they’re going to hit you with all the intimidation tactics. But once they know that you are building strength, [00:16:30] then the, the honey is poured on you.

[00:16:32] So it has, has that been your experience? 

[00:16:35] Bianca Cunningham: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, you know, I would say like for us first, so for us. initially, you know, they made those changes. They, you know, those are quiet changes, right? Replacing, you know, white staff with black staff. Um, you know, going to quietly talk to the one, you know, you know, store that’s not majority of people of color, black folks in the store to tell them that they don’t have, they shouldn’t show solidarity with the rest of us.

[00:16:58] They did that quietly. [00:17:00] They had a lot of meetings on their end. I would say initially though, they didn’t we didn’t feel like that big backlash that kind of like we had been inoculated against and like warned about we hadn’t been we didn’t feel that actually what we initially felt was you know our manager saying stuff like well you all have the right to form a union if you want to it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a contract or they’ll say stuff like you know retail is not the right Yeah.

[00:17:24] Unions are great for like teachers, right? And like factory workers. But the union is [00:17:30] not the right fit for retail work. So it’s never going to work. They’d say stuff like that, but you guys can go ahead. I mean, like, yeah, you have the right to try. It turned ugly in the middle. Once they were unable to really identify and get it like grasp on like who the leader was, or, you know, like once they started realizing the numbers were so strong.

[00:17:49] That’s when they started turning towards fear tactics and intimidation. And then, like you said, they pivot from that very quickly and add on the honey, which is like the free lunches. And maybe not just pizza. I mean, I think some [00:18:00] people even went to a hibachi lunch. You know, they might recruit you for a certain campaign.

[00:18:04] I think they’re recruiting, at that time, the company to say, like, we wanted, I think they had something called the Voice Verizon. Um, which was like, you, uh, you, like, member, like, not even member, it’s like employees who could be chosen To make certain like changes for the company or be the voice of the workers, uh, you know, for the company.

[00:18:24] So trying to instill like their own internal union or internal bargaining process, right. [00:18:30] That looks like it would undermine what we were trying to do. You have to look out like they were very creative, like with the ways that they came at us in some instances. 

[00:18:39] Jamala Rogers: Yeah. Wow. Yep. That’s the way they do it. And so some of this, I think when we start to, uh, sum up.

[00:18:47] learned, we will see that there is a method to the madness. And if we understand that, then I think we could be more successful in our organizing campaigns. 

[00:18:59] Bianca Cunningham: [00:19:00] Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:19:09] In early October this year, 75, 000 workers for healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente walked out on a three day strike that resulted in a new contract, 98. 5%. of union workers represented under this contract voted to ratify it the next month in early November. Joining us to discuss how that strike action was reached [00:19:30] and the results it did and didn’t deliver are SEIU United Healthcare Workers West members, Rashad Pritchett and Teresa Miles.

[00:19:39] Rashad is an environmental services staff and housekeeping aid at Kaiser Permanente in Richmond, California, as well as SEIU UHW strike captain and a member of the Kaiser bargaining committee. Rashad, thank you so much for joining us. 

[00:19:54] Rashad Pritchett: Oh, my pleasure. 

[00:19:55] Bianca Cunningham: My pleasure. And Teresa is a pharmacy technician for Kaiser Permanente in [00:20:00] South Sacramento and an executive board member of SEIU UHW.

[00:20:05] Teresa, thanks so much for being here with us. So we want to get into the tea about the strike, like you said, what did you all win? What you didn’t win. But first of all, just congratulations on participating and leading like the largest healthcare strike, I think in history of healthcare. Is that right? In history?

[00:20:25] That’s big. Yeah, huge, huge salute to both of you. [00:20:30] So when people hear about the healthcare strike, I think they automatically assume doctors are nurses. Can you talk about who you all represent, who your union represents, and like, what are some of the job titles that went out with you all? So we 

[00:20:43] Theresa Myles: represent, uh, there’s about a hundred thousand of us and still climbing.

[00:20:47] Uh, we represent pretty much everyone except doctors and nurses. So we have radiology, uh, that’s your x rays, your scans. We have lab phlebotomy. Um, those are your people who, you know, [00:21:00] take your blood work. We also have pharmacy, uh, cashier receptionist, and then patient care technicians. So those are the ones who, you know, are cleaning patients, um, helping patients recover, use the bathroom, things of that nature.

[00:21:13] They’re right, they’re right beside the nurses helping them as well. So it’s pretty much everyone, uh, in the facilities, facilities except for doctors and nurses. Right. 

[00:21:24] Rashad Pritchett: Pretty much everyone, everyone that you interact with, everyone that you as a patient, Would interact with because [00:21:30] you might not see your doctor, but once in a blue moon when they come in and out Correct person comes in and cleans your room You know the person that draws your blood all those people that you actually deal with Interact with though that that’s pretty much us.

[00:21:43] Bianca Cunningham: Sounds like the backbone of the hospital, right? , the people who are making everything and essential workers. Right? Right. Okay, so let’s talk about it. All right, so everybody, except for the doctors and nurses, um, are represented here. You all decided to go on strike. Talk to me. about [00:22:00] why you decided to go on strike.

[00:22:02] Like, what were the conditions like? And I would say, let’s start with the timeframe of COVID because, you know, it’s been a few years, but we know that you all went through it in COVID. And I’m pretty sure things have been building from there. So can you just take us back to that time and talk about what it’s been like the last three years that have led you to this moment?

[00:22:22] Rashad Pritchett: So with COVID, it was an uphill battle and that’s what started some of A [00:22:30] lot of people’s union journey, myself included, because we actually had to, there was a Senate bill and the number, I can’t recall right now, but we had to pass a Senate bill to force Um, the employer Kaiser to make it mandatory that they have PPE on hand because we were fighting for that just, just to get in 95 mass to go into clean rooms and to just do our everyday job.

[00:22:59] And it was [00:23:00] like, okay, you get one a day. I don’t know, man. Like what do you mean? You know? So we had to even fight for that. So that kind of set it up the tone for everything else kind of to come where it was like. So this isn’t cold and flu season. This is coronavirus though. Not coronavirus like we know it now where somebody might catch it though.

[00:23:19] We were in our minds, you know, like. And then this is black work talk though. So like a lot of black people don’t like to go to the doctor as is. So now we’re hearing that you might get Corona virus. People were [00:23:30] like, well, let me get my affairs in order. You know, let me say my goodbyes. And that like, it was that serious because people are dying.

[00:23:36] People are dropping dead. You see the news every day. You know, you’re on quarantine. You can’t come outside and get, get food and stuff like that though. So now here it is. I’m at work trying to just make my wages though. And it’s like, I can’t even get a mask. You know, I can’t get, you know, my gowns to go into these rooms and clean, but you want me to go into the rooms and clean, you know?

[00:23:56] So that, that’s kind of like that started it. [00:24:00] And then all these different things where things just weren’t lining up. And then the respect wasn’t there, you know, the respect’s not there. And it’s like, you know, we all know we have a job to do, but now it’s like, you’re kind of, you’re degrading us at the same time while we’re all putting ourselves.

[00:24:17] Like I’m not fortune 500 CEO member that I work remotely. I can’t clean hospital beds or rooms remotely. I have to be there, you know? And [00:24:30] so that kind of set a lot of my department up and a lot of people, we all kind of are interconnected though. Everybody. Felt the same way as, as, as to say, where’s the, where’s the respect?

[00:24:44] The words that, you know, I don’t need a pizza party, man. I’m not seven, you know, like I don’t need, I don’t need the pizza party, man. Like, you know, that doesn’t, you know, you have people that lost lives. You know, like while people didn’t think that [00:25:00] it was as serious as it was and they joked around and they brought Corona back to their family members and their family members passed on.

[00:25:09] They’re still here and they still live with that. You know, so all that leading up to, I know I’m fast forwarding to a lot of things, but people still have those vivid memories of what, Corona was at the time and we’re, that was still this bargaining year. You know, we didn’t forget all that, you know, you got trauma, so we’re bargaining based off of the [00:25:30] still, I still got N95 masks over there and I got my, um, covid test over there.

[00:25:34] We had to make sure that we weren’t, you know, we’re being proactive, making sure that we’re not infecting our coworkers though, you know, like when we got the word that you can come to work, even if you’re testing positive, we were like, what? Like, how do you tell somebody that, though? You know, like, because you still want people to come in.

[00:25:50] Well, if you don’t, you’re not showing any symptoms, and you’re testing positive, you can still come in, though. You know, but I’m still positive for COVID, though. Like, what do you 

[00:25:58] Bianca Cunningham: It goes against everything that they said [00:26:00] about the virus in the very first place, right? But, because they just wanted y’all to keep working and to see their profits, and that was what they put over the safety of not only you all, but the patients that you serve as well.

[00:26:11] Jamala Rogers: But it’s also within direct violation of even the Hippocratic oath, which says, first, do no harm. 

[00:26:18] Rashad Pritchett: It seems extremely contradictory, like, but yeah. 

[00:26:23] Bianca Cunningham: Okay, so through COVID, you know, like you said, they didn’t want to give you PPE, there wasn’t a lot of [00:26:30] respect or, um, regard for the risks that you all were having to take, um, going in and, and being on the front lines, um, with the virus every single day.

[00:26:39] What were some of the other issues? A lot 

[00:26:42] Theresa Myles: of the other issues were, I mean, short staffing, a lot of us were getting sent other places, other positions. Like for instance, I work outpatient pharmacy, but inpatient, um, came to us asking some of us to help with them. And that’s two [00:27:00] different job categories, but that goes to show you that we didn’t have, we weren’t prepared.

[00:27:07] We didn’t have what we needed. We didn’t have the staff that we needed, nor did we have the basic essentials that we needed. Like Rashad said, you can’t even get gloves or a mask to clean a room. Um, we’re helping patients. We can’t even get gloves or masks to keep us from interacting face to face with patients and catching something.

[00:27:25] There were no precautions. There were no, there was no staff. There was [00:27:30] just no communication whatsoever. Um, so that, that’s another issue that we were facing. Um, being short staffed, not being able to, if you were infected or sick, go home and rest. You had to show up. You had to come in. And you want me to do all of that at the same time as not being given the basic essentials that I need to be able to do my job.

[00:27:50] So it was just flat out disrespect. 

[00:27:52] Rashad Pritchett: No, I was going to say, and then you fast forward through all that [00:28:00] and act as if we don’t remember that. Now, like we were all just, and I was like, we’re all okay. We’re through it all. God, we made it and stuff like that. Like, yeah, man, I remember how you, how you treated us two years ago and stuff like that, though.

[00:28:14] And it’s like, you want to move past it. It’s like a relationship though. Like I still remember all the, all the dirt you did, man. Um, uh, You know, I’m not oblivious to the reality, you know, like people get past it. It’s like a, it’s like kind of like a, what do they call it? Like [00:28:30] when you, like, like a, like a PTSD type of thing, though, where it’s like, you kind of, you learn to live with it, you know, you don’t forget it.

[00:28:36] You just kind of, okay, well, I still need this job. And, you know, you kind of, you work past it, but it’s not like you’re confused about the treatment that you just. Right, 

[00:28:46] Bianca Cunningham: right. And I’m so glad you guys brought, you both brought up like safe staffing as the issue. Cause I feel like the tick tock I’m on tick tock, heavy, the tick tock discourse around you all strike was like a lot of things about people really not [00:29:00] understanding the issue of safe staffing.

[00:29:01] Like why does it matter that you have adequate staff? So I wonder if y’all could just go a little bit into like the working All the way around, like, why is that such an important issue? 

[00:29:11] Jamala Rogers: And Bianca, just to add on to that, there was staffing issues prior to COVID 19. And I’m wondering if, if these folks ever saw the relationship between short staffing and how staffing were being treated when they were 

[00:29:27] Theresa Myles: there.

[00:29:29] Yeah. [00:29:30] So the, it’s a huge relation because due to us being short staffed, now we have lines out the door. Now we have members who are yelling at us and becoming irate and violent because they’re afraid also of being in this hospital with COVID going rampant. So now if you, if you take me and put me in their shoes and I’m a patient, okay, lines are out the door.

[00:29:57] Someone’s behind me coughing. Someone’s in front [00:30:00] of me coughing, you know, I can’t get my medication right now. I can’t leave and go home because I’m already here. You know, there’s just so many issues to where due to us being short staff, people are terrified and now they’re taking out their frustrations on us to where, and we’re the only ones here trying to help.

[00:30:18] So it was, it was horrible. I mean, I’ll, I’ll just say it like that. It was a horrible situation. I mean, just the disrespect from Kaiser and from a lot of the members as well. I don’t know. It’s just one of [00:30:30] those things where we just weren’t prepared 

[00:30:34] Rashad Pritchett: and in in my department It was okay the easy way for me to kind of describe to somebody like let’s say if I have if me and my co worker have X amount of period of time to clean 10 rooms or 10 beds, whatever the case may be in this shift Let’s say it’s 10 beds.

[00:30:55] If it’s just me You would think that, okay, well I can only do five, but you [00:31:00] still want these 10 beds done. So at what point is the, is the output of work the same? Yeah. I mean like, how can I do it? Give me the same quality if it’s half the people, you know, if I’m cleaning an O. R. room, like I have, and it’s like, I don’t want to say there’s no shade or nothing like that though.

[00:31:18] But like a lot of our, A lot of me and my coworkers, we’ve kind of had these, these back and forth with, um, with certain, with certain nursing and certain surgeons, you know, if we clean it, if I’m cleaning up or. [00:31:30] I mean, just, I want to do my job anyway, but I’m from Richmond. So now people that come here are people that I know and stuff like that.

[00:31:39] I’m not going to cut a corner cleaning an OR room just to get your, cause you got these scheduled surgeries though. I’m like, you’re going to wait a level long. It’s going to take me to do this job, you know, because I don’t, I’m not gonna, I can’t have that on my conscience. Somebody died of an infection on the table because I’m getting, I’m getting rushed because we’re short staff, whatever the case may, maybe, [00:32:00] you know, and, but, It ends up being like, that’s the thing that we see.

[00:32:04] Like I’ve seen in the pharmacy and people flipping out and stuff like that. But it’s like, it ends up being like, who are you going to, who are you going to yell at? You know, you’re going to yell at the CEO. You’re never going to see them. You know, you see us though, you know, and you just. You just project your anger, you know, like you go to order something to drive through restaurant and they’re out of it though You mad at the person doing the order like they don’t do the [00:32:30] ordering or the stocking though, you know, it’s just Where will you see as going back to say?

[00:32:35] When you ask who is S C I U U H W there are the people that you see, you know what I mean? We’re who you see. 

[00:32:44] Jamala Rogers: And those are black and brown people and a lot of times they are predominantly women. So that makes them even more a target for folks to like bash and batter. 

[00:32:53] Theresa Myles: Of course. I think, I think we are the easiest target for people because people see me [00:33:00] already and think, okay, I don’t trust her.

[00:33:01] Wait a minute. She’s black. She’s a woman, she’s outspoken. So things of that nature. So I do get that all of the time. And here come these different words that people refer to us as. And even at times when my management wouldn’t even have my back. So that’s how it is every day for me walking into work. I know there’s a target on my back.

[00:33:25] I just do. I still go in and do the best that I can do. But at the end of the [00:33:30] day, you know, there’s always a target on me. I deal with patients every day and a lot of them just don’t. Don’t trust me. I’ve had patients come to me, get help. I’ll help them and they go to my co worker who is, you know, Caucasian or, um, a different race and they’ll say, Hey, did she do this correctly?

[00:33:48] So that’s, that’s things that I’ve had to go through as, you know, during the pandemic, but every day as well. Um, people don’t trust us and then they come in with the attitude of not trusting or not respecting [00:34:00] who we are. 

[00:34:03] Jamala Rogers: That’s, that’s really unfortunate, but I see it and I’ve heard it from folks in that industry that, um, you know, we, we’re the front line and we, we’re the casualties too, you know?

[00:34:14] And so that’s why I was saying this whole, if, if management understands the reason that you are understaffed or short staffed. Because they haven’t been treating people right and there’s burnout. And so what, what part of this don’t you understand?[00:34:30] 

[00:34:30] So I think one of the, uh, the other things just in terms of Rashad, you said this was the thing that brought you into the union. So you were not a union member before COVID. And this is just to get you to talk about what drove, what brought you into the union to be more active and more energetic. Okay.

[00:34:47] Okay. 

[00:34:47] Rashad Pritchett: Okay. Cause cause like anybody that works for Kaiser as a union is a union member. So let me just, I just want to iron that, iron that crease out. Um, so when COVID I’ve been, I’ve been [00:35:00] a active union member and with that regards, as far as the leadership role as for about a year and five months, so I’ve been a rep chair for four of those and.

[00:35:12] It was because prior to working at Kaiser, I’ve had different, I’ve been in healthcare for 14 years. So, and then I went, I was in management before then I managed it. It’s not for me. I don’t like, you know, like, I don’t like, I don’t like being a person that I don’t want to be. [00:35:30] Cause you do have to do certain things you don’t want to do in management.

[00:35:32] And you know, it’s, I don’t like to be the, I don’t like to be the bad guy. And it’s like, but that’s my job. And I don’t, but now I’m like, that’s just not gonna be my job anymore. But when I got people wanting me to be in the role of shop steward, they’re like, Rashad, you know how to talk to the people, you You know, imagine it looks like, you know, you, you know, you know, your stuff, people are not going to try to.

[00:35:53] Bully you around in these conversations and emails and you know, like you will fight for us. And I [00:36:00] was like, I was like, nah, still not, you know, they, they really had to, they convinced, they convinced me to do that for them. And I always held that as a regard and I was always a voice of for one, my department, but then also, you know, where I feel that just in general, Cause my, my department is predominantly, um, black, you know, [00:36:30] so it ends up being as a department, some of those stereotypes is just placed on my department as a whole.

[00:36:36] Oh, they’re lazy. You know what I mean? They’re ghetto is a whole, is a whole bunch of, of that. And while I don’t believe that somebody that That might have a bigger vocabulary. It makes somebody more or less unintelligent than the next person. You know what I mean? And because a lot of people that I work with, I grew [00:37:00] up with though, I’m from, I’m from the same city I work in.

[00:37:02] So we kind of all know each other. So it’s like, I know this person is brilliant. You know, he didn’t, they might say a whole bunch of slang and stuff like that though, but this dude is brilliant though. Like I know him, you know, so me being able to represent the people that don’t get seen in that same light.

[00:37:18] And being able to support them, um, it means a lot to me and they have a lot of trust in me to see that through. Like, Rashawn, you got to go in there. You got to talk to [00:37:30] so and so. And then it’s like, I would, I would do things, you know, without, I didn’t, I didn’t do it for the notoriety or stuff like that, or, you know, meritorious.

[00:37:42] accolades and stuff like that. I just want to get it done. You know, Hey, they, they took away our batch access. So I’ll make a couple of calls and stuff like that. And it just comes back on. And then they’re like, did you do that? And it’s like, I don’t do it. I don’t do it for that. I’m trying to do it for, um, my people though, you know, [00:38:00] and I got into it because I can’t sit around and, and I believe that’s true for a lot of us.

[00:38:06] And most of us though, like I can’t sit around halfway complaining about something I’m not willing to try to fix. 

[00:38:12] Bianca Cunningham: It sounds like that’s 

[00:38:13] Jamala Rogers: my kind of people to me. Yeah. 

[00:38:15] Rashad Pritchett: Yeah. You know, so like you can’t, you can’t be like, Oh, this is messed up. Somebody should be doing this. Why isn’t you coming around more?

[00:38:21] I’m like, I can be the union. I can come around more at the end of it. Do I have to kind of convince me? I’m like, let me be the rep chair or shop steward that I wish I had [00:38:30] when I kind of first got into this though. And I’ve been just raining. I just have been following that. That, um, mentality since. 

[00:38:38] Bianca Cunningham: That’s what’s up.

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[00:39:33] Jamala Rogers: So I’m thinking, you know, just listening to you all and knowing that both of you all are in very different departments, how has the, uh, engagement of union workers increased or improved since, well, since COVID, but also since the, the strike and, and the outcomes of the strike. And, and I know that sometimes people get involved because they [00:40:00] see at the end of the drama, there’s going to be.

[00:40:02] Something that they want to get and they stay engaged for that. But leading up into that, before you are actually made the decision to strike, did you notice a uptick in, uh, maybe not membership, but the, the, uh, the quality of involvement, engagement of, of union members? Yeah, 

[00:40:20] Theresa Myles: for sure. Um, you know, I have people in my department who have been there, um, longer than I’ve been alive.

[00:40:26] And so for years they’re saying, you know, we’ve never [00:40:30] had to strive, we’ve never had to do this or, or things of that nature. But I feel like the moment they started seeing, How clear it became that we may have to strike is when people started waking up and saying, Oh my God, like this is actually going to become a reality because for so long, it just hasn’t been right.

[00:40:47] You know, Kaiser has just struck a deal and we just kind of had that partnership, um, with Kaiser, but seeing this time it was totally different. And we had been warning people for [00:41:00] over a year. We would tell people how negotiations and things were going, how Kaiser was talking. So we knew me as a shop steward e board, I already knew what was coming.

[00:41:11] And I was just waiting for other people to get it in their mind that this was going to become that reality. And as things started getting closer and closer, you just see more involvement. You see people who have never even spoken to you before become. I got people in my department who hate unions and hate politics, but now they’re involved.

[00:41:28] They’re the main ones [00:41:30] asking me questions or calling me when it’s time. So you just begin to see the solidarity become when people are like, wait a minute. It’s us against Kaiser, it’s us against management and everything else, because for so long people were, Oh, the union doesn’t do anything. The union doesn’t, you know, complaining about certain things that they don’t understand or don’t know.

[00:41:52] Um, and that they’re not involved in. But when they see the solidarity and the people power that we have, people started becoming more and more [00:42:00] united. And so you just see that involvement grow into where it became just complete solidarity among all of us. That’s awesome. 

[00:42:07] Jamala Rogers: What about you, Rashad? 

[00:42:11] Rashad Pritchett: It was, it was, it was, it was big in my, or at, it was big at my facility.

[00:42:21] You know, it was, it was, I would say a little bit more than 50 50. Some people on, some people off, you know, off, off, off of the, [00:42:30] the union train. And I feel like, cause like, like I told you, like when I first started there, I wish I would have had more. of an embracement of, of that though. But for, I came into the union and the leadership role at a pivotal time because it was our, there’s the last year of our contract for the most part.

[00:42:53] So there’s a lot of movement happening, you know, like maybe, cause I don’t know, I’ve only worked for Kaiser for a little over three years. [00:43:00] So, so I haven’t, I didn’t, I wasn’t there for that last year of that contract. Maybe, maybe it was different, but maybe there was some foot off the gas activity for the first three and I came in the last.

[00:43:09] The last leg of it though, so it was a lot of Things and opportunities for me to get involved in So by me involving myself in a lot of things that I felt passionate about i’m going back and i’m just having I guess you want to say like organic conversations with people in my department and like, [00:43:30] Hey, this is what I’m doing.

[00:43:30] This is, you know, this is why I’m doing it. Hey, what do you guys think about that? And then sometimes people were like, I mean, he stayed talking about that union stuff, but as we have more and more conversations, people was appreciative. Like people haven’t even been coming to tell us that these are things happening.

[00:43:46] Even if it’s one thing for you to hear something and then it might not be important to you and you kind of dismiss it on your own. But it’s a whole nother thing for you to never have heard it. I mean, you don’t, nobody ever told you about [00:44:00] anything though. You know, like we watch news all the time. It’s like you see a story that doesn’t really, whatever, but they told you that maybe you just didn’t, wasn’t interested in it.

[00:44:07] And a lot of people, I had a few people in my department that was telling me, Oh yeah, I’m crossing that line. You know, they told me straight up. And like these people I know, you know what I mean? Like beyond work and stuff like that. And it’s like, they tell me, you know, [00:44:30] what’s going on with the blah, blah, blah situation.

[00:44:32] I’m not going to, you know, get all that. And I’m like, Hey, look, man, I love you, miss, whatever. You know what I mean? Like, whatever you, I can’t, you know what I mean? Like, I still gotta see you outside. I can’t just, you know, like, you’re not, you gotta make your own choices, you know? And those two people were out there on the line all three days at the end of the day, after they thought about it and talked about it, it’s like, There was a lot of things going around and there was a lot of maybe [00:45:00] fear or aggressive like you better not go across that line, there was a lot of that and I, I felt there wasn’t a lot of meeting with love.

[00:45:11] Like, Hey man, these studio people, man. Like, there’s like, like, I think I did a video or something like that. And I was like. I think I was like, it’s just like, you know, like if you have like a cookout or a family event or everybody might not show up, but that’s still your uncle, that’s still your, your cousin at the end of the day, you might feel a certain kind of way towards your sister, like, [00:45:30] Oh, she knows she’s going to came like, but yeah, I mean, like you can still feel what you need to feel though, but it’s like, we still are one union, you know, like we still got to go back into the, you still got to represent that member if something comes up.

[00:45:41] So, you know, and, but now by me, it’s, And a lot of my other stewards approaching it that way, you know, people coming out because like, I wasn’t expecting that though. And it’s like, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to be on the other side of history. 

[00:45:56] Bianca Cunningham: I’m so glad you brought that up because that was actually my [00:46:00] experience the first time I went out on strike.

[00:46:01] I used to work for Verizon Wireless and they took us out on an indefinite strike. And I remember, you know, being young, we had just, uh, you know, we didn’t even have a contract at that time. We fighting for our first contract. And most of us, you know, black and Brown workers, younger workers really don’t have a lot of experience with the union.

[00:46:21] And I felt like my union’s position was so hard and tough about scabs and like, you know, you gotta, you know, nobody goes out and I get [00:46:30] that. Like I get like that. They have that long standing culture of like, no scabs, you know, we show solidarity, we ride or die, whatever, whatever. But I just found like, it wasn’t that helpful.

[00:46:41] And trying to convince my coworkers about why they would go out. There was all kinds of reasons why people didn’t want to go out. I just got a new apartment and I can’t afford, you know, to get behind already. Or some, you know, women with high risk pregnancy that were like, the company’s about to turn off our, that we’re out on the line, the company’s about to turn off our benefits and I, and I can’t afford to not be able to go to [00:47:00] my specialist now.

[00:47:01] So, you know, there’s all kinds of reasons why people, and I think like what you said Rashad is so important is like just talking to them about, you know. you know, what’s on the line, the fact that we’re all sticking together. But at the end of the day, those are still, those were our friends, right? Those are, those are people that you, like you said, we’re going to have to go back and work with that, you know, can come around and we need to be able to leave that space for them to grow into those strong union, kind of just like ride or die people that we know, you know, helps us win, but everybody [00:47:30] has their own journey there.

[00:47:31] And it’s really like the union’s responsibility, our responsibility to create that loving space for people to feel welcome. Um, and. Like they see themselves as like a piece of this. Right. So I’m so glad you brought that up. Cause it’s something that I’ve really struggled with. Um, and, and had gone back and forth in my own head about what is right or what is wrong.

[00:47:49] But I think at the end of the day, it’s just like, what you’re saying is totally, it’s totally, I’m like totally on point as far as just, you know, you gotta do things a little differently sometimes, right? [00:48:00] Yeah, for sure. 

[00:48:01] Theresa Myles: I think like there’s a saying that, uh, my mom says, she’ll say you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.

[00:48:08] Jamala Rogers: Right with the other stuff 

[00:48:11] Theresa Myles: people and help them to understand. Some people just don’t understand. It’s not that they don’t want, don’t want to come out. You have to get them to understand what happens if we do what happens. We don’t, you know. And also what we can lose, you know, what’s, what’s in jeopardy.

[00:48:26] So as long as you get people to understand, you have those open [00:48:30] conversations, those conversations where people can, you know, get the bigger picture. A lot of people were thinking about paycheck for next week. They’re not thinking two years down the line when you’ve got a. If you don’t, so it’s, it’s things like that, where you have to draw the picture for some people telling them what they should or shouldn’t do.

[00:48:49] Jamala Rogers: Before we get a jump into strategy and tactics, I just want to stay with this topic for a little bit because all of us here are pro union, uh, myself and [00:49:00] Bianca, or we’re. former union members of some union. And so we are definitely pro union. But we also know that there are some contradictions in the way that the union operates, which is why some people are anti union.

[00:49:13] So I’m wondering, uh, and I’m just looking at the way that you Rashad talked about how you would be the union leader that you wanted to see. What can we begin doing differently inside of our unions that would actually embrace [00:49:30] people in a way that they feel like, uh, Teresa, to your point that this, this is them.

[00:49:34] This is, this is you, this is yours. Why aren’t you participating and not in an accusatory way, but what can we continue to do to make this a welcoming space for union workers? And sometimes that’s not always the case. 

[00:49:49] Rashad Pritchett: I feel like what Teresa said is. What do you say? That’s the light. That’s the way. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s open [00:50:00] conversations though, you know, and it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s the being able to be like, it doesn’t have to be my way.

[00:50:06] You know what I mean? Just like, what, what are your thoughts? And you got to have kind of, you can’t, when I, when I would go on these different things though, these different trainings, you know, for everything political for whatever though, they give you like this, it’s, Like a script. Yeah. And I always conversation either you want me to do this or you don’t want me to do this, but I’m not reading off a script because I, that’s, that, that’s not, people aren’t put [00:50:30] into these boxes though.

[00:50:31] You know what I mean? Um, Jamala, Bianca, Theresa, everybody has their own things. Right? I can’t read off this script. I can give you like maybe like. A percentage, I can repeat to all three of you, like it’s 55%. I can bullet point it, but it’s like, everybody’s going to be different. So in a union of 85, 000 members plus, and you know, whatever the case may be, these are all individuals.

[00:50:56] So if you’re not willing to do the legwork and have potentially [00:51:00] 85, 000 plus individual conversations, you don’t really want that actual result there. And I haven’t talked to 85, 000 people, but now. In my facility, I’ve had these one on ones and you know, Hey, come talk to me, whatever though. And really just doing the work, not sending and I have not, let me not contradict myself.

[00:51:18] I have sent text messages as well, just to kind of give broad information dates, times and stuff like that. But I try to do the legwork and having individual conversation. Cause otherwise it’s like, you just, that [00:51:30] just like a regular. Email spamming somebody, you know? So I believe what Theresa said is pretty much the most effective way, just open communication.

[00:51:39] And it’s like, you might not have, the problem with that I feel is you might not have a specific end goal date in mind as when that person might be affected by that open communication. Yeah. I mean, I can’t tell you when it’s going to hit home for [00:52:00] Jamala. I don’t know. But over time, it’s like, Like building trust with somebody or falling in love with somebody, you know, it might not happen just because you had a nice date, you know, you know, a couple of months of dates.

[00:52:13] So you don’t know when it might just hit, but it hits with it. As long as it’s consistent, you know, and sometimes people just don’t want to put in that, that legwork. They want to go in and hey, shake a hand. And okay, now you’re a union person. And we’re just, we’re over and done with it. I don’t talk to you ever again.

[00:52:27] Like that’s, that’s not what I feel is going to [00:52:30] be organic or meaningful. to anybody. You know, you just gotta, you gotta put it into work if you want to get the result though. 

[00:52:36] Jamala Rogers: And I think we understand, particularly with black folk, you’re not going, you’re not going to build a relationship like that. They don’t trust you and they, they don’t, yeah, we don’t, that’s not a way that we’re going to organize our people.

[00:52:48] Right. At all. So I want to talk about the 75, 000 plus people that you all brought into, uh, the strike because that’s, first of all, it’s a lot of work and you did it over four states. [00:53:00] The strategy that you all used to begin to, first of all, educate people. You said somebody started a year out that you were always saying, Hey, we might have to go this way here.

[00:53:09] What was the other parts of the strategy that you are looking at? Did you look at a particular state going first, like the UAW did? I know when you go to California, particularly the Bay Area, Kaiser Permanente is a dominant state. Yeah. You know, scene, you know, dominant structure on the scene. And, you know, you almost know [00:53:30] the kind of power that they have in, in that state.

[00:53:33] So the other states, I don’t know, um, what, how did you all look at it? We’re going to have to take 75 workers out and we’re going to have to make sure that the majority of them are going to be willing to strike. And 98. 5 percent is a pretty damn good percentage to, to agree to a strike. So what strategy did you all use going in?

[00:53:54] And then what was the role of you and Teresa Rashad of helping to [00:54:00] get workers to understand what they were going to have to do and some of the sacrifices they might have to make? 

[00:54:07] Theresa Myles: I think some of the strategies we looked at are certain people’s, um, contracts. I know we all have the same contract, but I believed it was, uh, don’t quote me.

[00:54:18] I forget what state it was, but they were coming out after us. So we already had. And to where if we were going to do part two of a strike, it would have been even bigger because [00:54:30] they weren’t out yet. But some of the main key components we looked at was, um, things that Kaiser goes after, um, every contract, um, and letting people know what those things are and what that means if we were to lose those things.

[00:54:46] Um, the biggest thing we did was again, conversations, um, being a leader. I learned that you have to have a different approach with almost everybody because some people are different learners. Some people, you know, I used to [00:55:00] coach, I can yell at some kids. But then there’s some kids I gotta, Hey, hey, come here.

[00:55:03] Let me, let me talk to you real quick. What you did wrong. And you gotta break it down because some people are better than others. So it was kind of getting your departments on lock and making sure that you communicate with those certain people. And some of the things that I did personally, I would do zoom calls.

[00:55:22] So off the clock, I would pick a day, like a Tuesday or Wednesday around 7pm when I knew everyone was off and we would have these Zoom calls where, [00:55:30] okay, it’s just pharmacy. What do you need from me? How can I help you? This is what’s at stake. This is how we can lock in what we need. But what do you need from me to get you to the point where you feel comfortable striking or going out or Stepping out.

[00:55:44] So it’s pretty much just having those conversations But having each leader take their core of their amount that they’re responsible for and making sure those people are all With the same goal in mind so it’s just pretty much groups breaking them down and getting getting your set groups [00:56:00] and then tackling that all together if you have a hundred leaders and you can get A hundred, 200 people in each facility, you can lock that facility down and make sure that everyone’s on the same page.

[00:56:10] So it was just pretty much dividing by groups and having your leaders take on, on those tasks. And that’s pretty much how we, we did it divide, you know, so, um, by dividing our people and bringing them all together at the end. Rashad, was 

[00:56:23] Jamala Rogers: that pretty much what you all did in the housekeeping? 

[00:56:27] Rashad Pritchett: Yeah. You know, I mean, it’s, that’s, I [00:56:30] think, I think the.

[00:56:33] The common thread between what she’s saying and what I’m saying is you can’t skip the work. You know what I mean? Like that’s sometimes people feel like, Oh, well, you know, I’m going to send an email out to everybody. They’ll see, you 

[00:56:46] Jamala Rogers: know. And they supposed to know this anyway. Can’t 

[00:56:49] Bianca Cunningham: cheat the hustle.

[00:56:50] That’s what they, that’s where it comes 

[00:56:51] Rashad Pritchett: from. You can’t cheat the grind. You know, it’s going to, it’s going to show that you didn’t, you know, it’s going to be like, yeah. Oh, well, did you know about [00:57:00] the blah, blah, blah. Yeah. Theresa never came and talked to me. Rashad never came into, I don’t know. Who’s Rashad?

[00:57:05] Like, you can’t, 

[00:57:06] Jamala Rogers: you can’t cheat that. Oh, my shop steward, I’ve never seen 

[00:57:09] Rashad Pritchett: that dude. Exactly though. So, you know, so you can’t, you can’t cheat that and expect it to pay off in the end. And I think by and large, throughout California, the Colorado, the Rockies, you know, D. C. area, Hawaii, all these different [00:57:30] areas.

[00:57:31] We, we, we had a similar, we would be meeting on zoom as far as strategizing. Um, and then a lot of the people that were stepping up had a similar, a similar energy where it’s like, we all were kind of focused, like, okay, this one needs to be. This is what we have to do, you know, and nobody was really there as a placeholder, you know, just a name on a piece like we were all there, you know, we all might have our different personalities and tactics.

[00:57:57] But bottom line, we all had a like, we got [00:58:00] to get out there. We got it. We got it. We got a pound of pavement, like back when you used to go try to find a job, got a pound of pavement. You got to get out there. You got to talk to people, go to those departments that don’t really come out and like have those conversations, though, like.

[00:58:13] We have different departments that don’t really come out as much as others though. And it’s like, I want to know why, well, you know, back in the day, and you don’t want to hear about this. I absolutely do. I’m not even asking because I want you to come out there. I 

[00:58:24] Bianca Cunningham: just want to know, you know, 

[00:58:26] Rashad Pritchett: what you’re going to do with girls.

[00:58:27] I’m just curious as to what happened. You know, and then [00:58:30] sometimes they’ll bring up a story like, yeah, back in 2003, I wasn’t even like, okay, they didn’t, they didn’t kill the messenger. They didn’t follow my grievance all time. It was like, okay, well, I hear you, you know, but you know, and sometimes you got to kind of unravel some stuff to get back on track, but you’re never gonna, you’re never gonna do that without those, like how Teresa said, without those conversations, though, you know what I mean?

[00:58:54] Like there, cause people will. do whatever they’re going to do anyways, but sometimes it’s like, why [00:59:00] would I do that? You don’t even feel the need to even talk to me. You want me out there. You know what I mean? Like, even though it’s for them, but you want me out there, but you feel the need to not have a conversation with me, you know?

[00:59:12] So you, you gotta put in, you gotta put in the work. 

[00:59:15] Bianca Cunningham: Right. And that’s the 

[00:59:16] Theresa Myles: main thing like Rashaad said, uh, it’s the work and it took a lot of work and a lot of us doing it. Um, one of my favorite quotes, I’m sorry, I’m a big quote person, but Dawn Staley, she’s one of my favorite basketball players. [00:59:30] She’s a college coach now.

[00:59:31] And she said, a lot of you guys have. Big dreams, but a backyard work ethic. 

[00:59:36] Bianca Cunningham: So 

[00:59:40] Theresa Myles: that means a lot of you guys want oh man Like I want this house in this car. I want you know, you have all these expectations, but don’t put in the work Exactly what Rashad, Rashad’s saying. I mean, it, it’s show and prove, right? I mean, the proof pudding at the end of the day, you can tell me whatever you want to tell me, but I’m going to [01:00:00] sell myself anyway.

[01:00:01] So that’s just kind of how I look at it too. Just the work. Well, you 

[01:00:05] Jamala Rogers: are obviously put in the work because you got some wins. So tell us what were some of the victories that came out of the contract. And then I want you, I want to, I want to start with the wins first and then we’ll talk about what you didn’t get and what still needs to be worked on.

[01:00:20] Rashad Pritchett: I like the way Teresa put it earlier. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I like the way you summed it up. 

[01:00:27] Theresa Myles: No, um, well, I mean, we [01:00:30] won a lot. We won the biggest contract in healthcare history. So kudos to us. Um, we won 21 percent wages increases across the next four years. We also won a better, um, more money going towards retirements, more money going towards education.

[01:00:48] Also, uh, healthcare worker minimum wage will go to that. Um. We’ll go up towards our last year of the contract, I believe 25 an hour that right there, [01:01:00] um, was probably one of the biggest wins that I saw because there’s a lot of people I’ve heard stories of people traveling from Tijuana to Kaiser’s in SoCal because they can’t live in the Los Angeles or San Diego areas.

[01:01:17] And when you have healthcare workers who are frontline workers, who are the backbone of the community and of the hospital, and they’re living in their cars. And they can’t afford a place to live to me. That’s [01:01:30] pathetic and it’s disrespectful. Um, so that wage increase is a difference between living in your car and living in an apartment.

[01:01:39] So that to me is one of our, our biggest, biggest wins because that’s people getting their life back. Some people lost a lot, especially during COVID. Um, there was a member who lost her husband and had to live in the car. With her kids, um, make 17 an hour. You can’t, where can you live? You can’t even afford a dog house for that.

[01:01:58] [01:02:00] Um, is, is people getting, getting their lives back honestly, also with inflation, things of that nature. Inflation is going up 9 percent and you’re telling us that we’re, we’re making too much and we’re not worth it. When you’re sitting in an office all day, making 15 million a year. Greg Adams and your kids are going to private schools and you have yachts and family vacations to you know Other countries while we’re here struggling.

[01:02:27] We’re losing loved ones and co [01:02:30] workers and you’re telling me I’m not worth my increases But you’re making the money he makes out. I’ll probably never see that right unless you absolutely being realistic So for you to even talk to me You don’t you you can’t fathom what I’ve gone through what others have gone through because you’re not there You wouldn’t, you couldn’t walk in my shoes if I sized them for you, like the disrespect from Kaiser to us.

[01:02:59] Let me know [01:03:00] that we have a continuous fight ahead of us, although we won a lot of different things and I’m grateful to, you know, Rashad and others who have helped and are paving the way for all these things to come. But we have a huge battle ahead of us. This is just the beginning of the Greg Adams era.

[01:03:21] This is the first contract with him. So you can imagine if things are already beginning like this, we had to strike and haven’t had to strike in how, how many years was [01:03:30] it? I think 

[01:03:31] Bianca Cunningham: I’m on 40 

[01:03:31] Rashad Pritchett: years, 30, 20, 20, up, up. If not 30, I know it’s been since the partnership. So it was like 80, 87, 88. I think that’s the year that that first strike was happening in 88, 

[01:03:46] Theresa Myles: 89.

[01:03:46] Right. So you’re looking, I mean, It was the 

[01:03:49] Bianca Cunningham: wrong time of the earthquake. 

[01:03:50] Theresa Myles: So that lets me know what your mindset is. And that’s why I wanted to dig deeper and grow further into [01:04:00] union and doing the work and getting more involved because I see what these greedy corporations are doing to the people. And we see all these things from Kaiser to go from the golden standard to everyone wanting to work there.

[01:04:13] To everyone wanting to leave and go to Sutter or UC Davis from members wanting to getting Kaiser was like getting Everything getting a you know The golden standard and for everyone to believe in that company says a lot you’re choosing corporate greed over the people But [01:04:30] I’m here to fight for the people so I know we have a huge battle ahead of us.

[01:04:34] I’m not going to relax these next four years because I know the four years from now is going to be even bigger. This is just the beginning. And I believe we’ll be ready for that. And that’s my goal is to be ready for that and to be bigger and better for when that happens. But those are just some of the wins that we got.

[01:04:49] I’m proud of that. But I know we have way more work ahead of us. 

[01:04:54] Jamala Rogers: So, Rashad Pritchett and Teresa Miles, thank you for joining us today on [01:05:00] Black Work Talk. You all are inspiring. Uh, I think we’re looking forward to the next four years and what you can do in terms of growing the union, growing that solidarity that you will need for that next contract.

[01:05:12] And I think it’s clear from this conversation, but also others, that these corporate greedy folks Or doubling down. So whatever we won this time is going to be harder to win unless we are totally unified. And so, uh, so yeah, we should just, I mean, you said it [01:05:30] Teresa, we got to look forward to that and start the work now, but thank you for joining us today, taking time out.

[01:05:36] Uh, Bianca, you want to say anything? 

[01:05:39] Bianca Cunningham: No, just thank you. And I just want to say like as a note, huge that you all were able to win what you were able to win. I know when I’m organizing with folks in California, one of the main concerns is the dwindling black population in the Bay Area and in L. A. And it sounds like what you all are doing and what we were able to achieve through the union is helping to make sure that people can actually [01:06:00] stay there.

[01:06:00] And maybe we could even see people come back, right? I could get those jobs. So thank you. And congratulations to both of you. 

[01:06:07] Theresa Myles: Thank you for having 

[01:06:08] Jamala Rogers: me. Yeah.

[01:06:20] Bianca Cunningham: So I really enjoyed that conversation. Our thanks again to Rashad Pritchett and Teresa Miles from SEIU UHW for joining us today. Black [01:06:30] Work Talk is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. If you haven’t already subscribed, be sure to do so to catch future episodes. when they drop and leave a review whenever you listen.

[01:06:41] You can support this show by becoming a monthly patron for as low as 5 per month at patreon. com slash Black Work Talk. Executive producer for Black Work Talk is Xiomara Corpeno and Josh Elstro is our producer. I’m Bianca Cunningham. 

[01:06:57] Jamala Rogers: And I’m Jamilah Rogers, your co host. [01:07:00] Thank you for listening.

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