East Bay Kaiser Permanente Employees Set a Strike Date 

Plus, Alameda to discuss gun violence.

click to enlarge The strike against Kaiser, which occupies the Ordway building at right, could begin Oct. 14.

Photo by Oakland-100-CC

The strike against Kaiser, which occupies the Ordway building at right, could begin Oct. 14.

Kaiser Permanente workers, including 4,900 in Alameda County, have set a strike date: Oct. 14. The group of unions representing optometrists, laboratory scientists, x-ray technicians, licensed vocational nurses, housekeepers, and other workers are billing the strike as the largest in the United States since 185,000 Teamsters walked the picket line against United Parcel Service for 16 days in 1997.

Unions say seven days of demonstrations are scheduled for the week of Oct. 14. In addition to California, the strike includes Kaiser Permanente union members in five other states, totaling about 80,000 health care workers.

Kaiser union members have been without a contract since Sept. 30, 2018. Despite the strike date, both sides continue to talk in hopes of reaching a deal within the next month. Kaiser's recent offer gives employees a 3 percent wage increase through 2022. But talks have been contentious over the past year, with unions alleging that Kaiser has committed unfair labor practices. It is currently unclear what the union's counteroffer is.

For months, unions have painted Kaiser Permanente as awash in profits after earning $11 billion over the past two years. The hospital giant's financial reserves are believed to be roughly $38 billion.

In the East Bay, the bulk of union members working at Kaiser Permanente hospitals are located in Oakland and San Leandro, the union said. Seventeen hundred union workers are employed at Kaiser Oakland, plus another 1,500 in San Leandro, and 420 in Berkeley.


Alameda Backs Town Hall on Gun Violence, But Not Without Resistance

The Alameda City Council unanimously agreed to schedule a town hall meeting on the issue of gun violence, but not before two councilmembers questioned the scope of the event and whether its aims had already been covered in Alameda.

The meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 at a location to be determined, will discuss potential actions that residents can implement in the future, said Councilmember Jim Oddie, who proposed the meeting along with Councilmember John Knox White. The meeting will include Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Sen. Nancy Skinner, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, and other speakers. "Our goal out of this is to have a conversation on how we can best address this issue of gun violence because it seems like every week somebody dies because somebody has an assault weapon," Oddie said. "People are asking for action."

But Councilmember Malia Vella and Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft were skeptical. "What is context of the meeting?" Vella asked. "I think the issue of addressing gun violence is fairly broad." She later mentioned the recent work on the issue by a group of Alameda women, suggesting that their efforts had been overlooked. Meanwhile, Ashcraft offered passive resistance to the town hall proposal. She read a lengthy list of gun-related state legislation that the city had previously endorsed. The reading lasted more than three minutes. At one point, she suggested that Alamedans could start book clubs to help curb gun violence.

"Sitting around and reading a book and having a book club is not going to stop people" from killing others with assault weapons, replied Oddie, who was clearly frustrated by the discussion. "This is a public health crisis and we need to act on it. We need to do something as a city. ... I'm a bit stunned by the resistance."

Councilmember Tony Daysog suggested that banning the retail sale of firearms in the city would be one tangible move toward limiting gun violence. "Does Big 5 really have to sell weapons near the counter there when you go down to South Shore?" Daysog asked.


San Leandro Tenants Group Organizing Ballot Initiative

While East Bay tenants activists have changed the political landscapes of Oakland, Alameda, and Hayward in recent years by forcing stronger housing protections, such achievements have largely sidestepped San Leandro. Now a newly formed San Leandro tenants group is planning a citizens-driven "fair rent" ballot initiative.

San Leandro elected officials have not enacted the same menu of new rent protections as have those other East Bay cities. Just-cause eviction protections are one notable omission from San Leandro's rental ordinance. Last spring, Hayward joined the list of local cities with a just-cause ordinance.

But building upon its success earlier this year in lobbying city officials to enact stringent new protections for San Leandro's large mobile home communities, the new Tenants Union San Leandro hopes to apply some aspects of its previous advocacy to the proposed ballot measure. The proposed measure would limit annual rent increases to the lesser of 4 percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index. The proposed ballot measure also seeks to expand tenant-relocation payments, require the city to offer counseling for renters, and allow for more accurate data collection to monitor rent increases and evictions. A Rent Stabilization Board would also be created to administer to the new programs.

In the past, city officials have argued that the debilitating housing displacement and rent-gouging that has sparked renters' activism in other cities has mostly avoided San Leandro. Statistics showing San Leandro's average rent increases sitting near the bottom of all Alameda County cities have often been cited as evidence that the housing crisis is less acute in the city. Furthermore, San Leandro's Rent Review Board has rarely met over the past two years because of a lack of complaints for it to hear.


In Other News ...

Albany Mayor Rochelle Nason said "lives will be lost" if Sutter Health closes Berkeley's Alta Bates Hospital, the East Bay Times reported. ... Nurses at Alameda Hospital and San Leandro Hospital held a one-day strike, KRON reported. Negotiations for a new contract have languished for months. ... A Superior Court judge will soon rule whether a proposed 260-unit housing development near the old Spenger's restaurant in Berkeley was illegally denied approval, Berkeleyside reported. The project was set to include a large number of units for low-income housing, but also is within the West Berkeley Shellmound area. ... The Alameda County sheriff's deputy charged with four felony counts of recording jailhouse conversations between suspects and their attorneys said he was just following department guidelines, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. ... Contra Costa County supervisors placed a moratorium on some administrative court fees, such as fingerprinting, drug testing, and ankle monitoring, NBC Bay Area reported. The fees raise about $1.8 million in annual revenues for the county. ...

Forty-one million disposable cups are used every year in Berkeley alone, said an environmental group that is launching a reusable cup program in the city, Bay City News reported. Meanwhile, Contra Costa County supervisors were set to decide whether to ban the use of polystyrene cups and containers, starting in May 2020, SFGate reported. ... A pair of bills that would make it unlawful to smoke on state beaches and subject to fines made its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk for approval, the Times reported. Sen. Steve Glazer authored one of the bills. ...

A federal judge in Sacramento sided with President Trump's lawyers in blocking a new California state law that requires presidential candidates in the state's primary elections to release their tax returns, the Associated Press reported. ... Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential campaign is dropping like a rock, according to a new national poll, The Hill reported. Following last week's debate, Harris' support has sunk to five percent. The news in California is even more dispiriting, SFGate reported. Harris's support dropped to 6 percent, just a tick behind entrepreneur Andrew Yang. With her campaign in a rut, she is planning to go all-in on Iowa, Politico reported. ... As Rep. Eric Swalwell verbally jousted with former Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Lewandowski mocked the East Bay congressman by referring to him as "President Swalwell," a reference to his ill-fated presidential primary campaign. ...

Betty Reid Soskin, the beloved 98-year-old National Park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center in Richmond, suffered a stroke recently, her family said. While she recovers, a short documentary about Soskin made its debut, SFGate reported. ... The University of California is jettisoning fossil fuel investments from its pension and endowment funds "because they are a financial risk," the AP reported. ... Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita will leave his post next spring, the Chron reported. Morishita has served as president since 2011. ... On the back of its 4-0 record, Cal jumped eight spots in the Associated Press college football rankings to No. 15 in the nation, SFGate reported. It's the highest the Golden Bears have risen in the poll since 2009, when Jeff Tedford manned the sidelines at Memorial Stadium.

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