Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Health care workers marched and rallied Sept. 4 in observance of Labor Day to draw attention to what organizers say are long patient wait times, missed diagnosis, neglect and chronic understaffing in patient care.
The Los Angeles Police Department said the demonstration was peaceful, but 25 people were arrested for failing to disperse after an unlawful assembly was declared at 11:20 a.m.
The rally began at Los Feliz Elementary School with union members marching about a half-mile to Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center at 4867 W. Sunset Blvd. for a “civil disobedience action,” Renée Saldaña, press secretary for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, told City News Service.
Police said that Sunset Boulevard was closed from Vermont Avenue to Edgemont Street for “several hours,” but police said shortly after noon that the main thoroughfare would be open to traffic shortly.
“Thank you to the brave to the @SEIU_UHW workers who are putting their bodies on the line in the call to overcome greed and improve health care for millions of Californians,” the union posted on social media, accompanied by photos of members sitting in the street.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is negotiating a new contract with the health care organization to replace the one that will expire Sept. 30.
Kaiser Permanente issued a lengthy statement Sept. 1 on the negotiations, which included saying, “We hired over 29,000 new employees in 2022 and are on pace to exceed that substantially in 2023, despite the pandemic-driven labor shortage happening across health care.
“We believe this is because talented people recognize the value of our current wage and benefit offerings and want to work at Kaiser Permanente,” the statement said. “About 96% of candidates for coalition-represented positions accept our employment offers — significantly above the industry average.”
Labor Day also was marked in Los Angeles County by the 44th annual Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition Labor Day Parade & Picnic Rally in Wilmington. Its theme was “Union Labor Built the American Dream.”
“The American labor movement has helped build and maintain a middle class in which we set the standard for wages and benefits in this country,” coalition Chairman Larry Barragan told City News Service.
Approximately 5,000-6,000 people, including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, were expected for “the largest West Coast Labor Day solidarity parade,” Barragan said.
“One of the driving forces for a large turnout is that this year labor unions have been aggressively gaining strides in negotiations and the current strike actions taking place such as SAG-AFTRA, Writers Guild, and the hotel workers union,” Barragan said.
The parade began at the intersection of Broad Avenue and E Street, then traveled west on E Street to Avalon Boulevard and north on Avalon Boulevard to M Street, concluding at Banning Park with a noontime “picnic rally.”
In his Labor Day proclamation, President Joe Biden wrote, “I have often said that the middle class built this country and that unions built the middle class. On Labor Day, we honor that essential truth and the dedication and dignity of American workers, who power our nation’s prosperity.
“They have built the railways, highways and waterways that connect us from coast to coast, have forged the look and feel of American cities and have protected our communities and families as first responders.
“Organized workers have fundamentally transformed how we live and work in this country — from securing the 8-hour work day and overtime pay to mandating standard safety practices in workplaces and earning better health care, pensions and other benefits for all workers.”
Labor Day, the yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the nation, was first celebrated in the United States on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City.
In 1887, Oregon became the first state to formally recognize Labor Day. By 1894, 31 of the then 44 states had made Labor Day a holiday when Congress passed a bill designating the first Monday in September a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and territories.