Kaiser Mental Health Care Workers Strike For Change | Crooked Media
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August 28, 2022
What A Day
Kaiser Mental Health Care Workers Strike For Change

In This Episode

  • The Justice Department released the affidavit that led to the FBI search on former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. Although the document was heavily redacted, it does indicate that Trump had highly classified information about sensitive intelligence gathering, and that the FBI had reason to believe he was trying to obstruct the investigation into those records.
  • Over 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health workers in Northern California remain on strike. Today marks their 15th day since taking to the picket lines to protest huge caseloads and long wait times for their patients. Alexis Petrakis, a Kaiser therapist who’s on strike in the San Francisco Bay Area, tells us what changes she and her colleagues want to see from the health care giant.
  • And in headlines: flash floods and landslides in Pakistan have killed over 1,000 people since mid-June, deadly fighting broke out in Libya between two rival militias, and NASA plans to launch its most powerful rocket yet to the moon.


Show Notes:



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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, August 29th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day where we’ll be honoring Serena Williams’s last U.S. Open by competing against each other to become the two greatest podcasters in the history of podcasting. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Priyanka in this scenario, you’re my sister and our sibling rivalry will propel us to greatness. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Or it’ll absolutely blow up this podcast. Stick around to find out. [laughter] On today’s show, officials in Pakistan are blaming climate change for deadly flooding in the country. Plus, NASA is gearing up for its first mission to the moon in decades. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, yes. Some unfinished business out there, apparently.


Priyanka Aribindi: [laugh] Apparently. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know. But first, if you were with us for Friday’s show, you heard that we were expecting the Justice Department to release the affidavit that justified the FBI search on former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. It is now Monday. So Priyanka, what have we learned so far. 


Priyanka Aribindi: As we were anticipating the 38 page document was heavily redacted. At least half of it was covered in black bars. But what wasn’t in doubt does indicate that Trump had highly classified information about intelligence gathering and that the FBI had reason to believe that he was trying to obstruct the investigation into those records. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Let’s cut straight to the good stuff. What are the biggest takeaways here? 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, I’m with you and definitely have a few things to share. So the biggest takeaway is that the Mar-a-Lago search was brought on by the discovery that Trump kept a ton of highly classified material at Mar-a-Lago, including documents related to the use of, quote, “clandestine human sources in intelligence gathering”. So in other words, this is information and documents that were related to American spies abroad and foreign nationals who spy on behalf of our government. So this information came from the documents that the National Archives got from Mar-a-Lago back in January. And it really solidifies the fact that this isn’t like a random search or that they were going off of a hunch here. Like they actually had really detailed information about what Trump had at Mar-a-Lago and why it would be a national security concern. So portions of the affidavit also describe the DOJ’s efforts over months to try and recover these state documents that Trump basically took with him, treated like his own personal property, in an effort that Trump may have even illegally obstructed. So the affidavit itself states that there was, quote, “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at Mar-a-Lago. So not sounding great, and this isn’t an official part of the affidavit, but it’s something that I found interesting. A memo that basically justifies the redactions also says that there are, quote, “a significant number of civilian witnesses who are cooperating with this investigation”. So, as we’ve said, the redactions are made in the first place to protect these witnesses’ safety and this ongoing investigation. But very interesting to know that there are several people working with them on this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. That’s also good to hear that people are, you know, perhaps finally tired of his foolishness. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Happy it’s happening. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So what happens next here? 


Priyanka Aribindi: So this affidavit, it wasn’t unsealed to help the case or move anything along. It was really more for our benefits because the public wanted to know, you know, why this search was happening, what was the justification behind it? They really kind of did this for us. So it’s tough to say on their end, you know, what’s going to happen next or when this really wasn’t part of the equation in moving that along. But this has set off action in other areas. So on Friday, the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, told lawmakers that her office will evaluate whether having all of this stuff at Mar-a-Lago was a national security risk. Like, you know, if any unauthorized people had access to this information, that kind of thing. No one has ever accused me of being an intelligence official, but I feel like I can tell you already probably not a great thing. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked for a damage assessment. That is Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who both lead the panel. They signed on to that request. So bipartisan support there and they want to access the documents that were taken from Mar-a-Lago as well. We’ll, obviously, you know, keep you updated as we learn more, but that’s you know all we have on this story for now. 


Tre’vell Anderson: All right. The story that keeps on giving there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s turn now to another story we’ve been following this month. 


[clip of Kaiser Permanente healt care worker protesting] When mental health care is under attack, what do we do? 


[clip of group of Kaiser Permanente health care worker protestors] Stand up fight back.


[clip of Kaiser Permanente healt care worker protesting] I said, what do we do? 


[clip of group of Kaiser Permanente health care worker protestors] Stand up fight back. 


Tre’vell Anderson: More than 2000 Kaiser Permanente mental health workers in northern California remain on strike. Today marks their 15th day since taking to the picket lines, and they’re now joined by dozens of colleagues who also work for the nonprofit health care network in Hawaii. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so this has been going on for some time now. So can you tell us a little more about, you know, who these workers are and why they are striking? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So we’re talking about a huge range of professionals who do that hard work of providing personalized care to patients one on one, face to face or even, you know, in this era, zoom to zoom. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’re talking about therapists, psychologists, addiction counselors and even social workers. And they’re striking because they’re overwhelmed by huge caseloads that they just can’t handle. According to the National Union of Health Care Workers, that’s the union representing these folks. There’s only one full time Kaiser mental health clinician for every 2600 patients in Northern California. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. Yikes. That is not sounding great. So how is this affecting the people who are seeking help? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, so it’s resulted in massive delays for appointments. Some patients are forced to wait 2 to 3 months just to see someone for the very first time. And it’s actually against California state law to delay care. So officials have launched two separate investigations in the past year alone about these long wait times. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s completely understandable if you’re having a mental health crisis or you are in need of seeing somebody, it’s usually not something that can wait for too long. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Let alone 2 to 3 months. So how has Kaiser been reacting to all of this, have they had meetings to negotiate with these workers and they acknowledged their demands at all? What’s going on over here? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Not really. As of recording, the union has not come to an agreement with Kaiser and the union hasn’t put a stop date to the strike. So it’s still open ended until they reach a deal. So yesterday I spoke to Alexis Petrakis. She’s been a therapist at Kaiser for three years now and works with both children and families in the San Francisco Bay area. I started by asking Alexis why she and her colleagues made the difficult decision to strike in the first place. 


Alexis Petrakis: It’s really kind of the last resort, but we felt like this point, we are left with no other option. Kaiser, in bargaining this past year has really shown a lack of commitment to reforming their mental health care system in a way that provides improvements in patient care and access to services, as well as retaining their current therapists or even recruiting new therapists. They are not currently even able to meet regulatory laws around access to care. We felt like it was necessary to take this step so that we can get our patients the care that they desperately need and deserve. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know that wait times, patient wait times has been a huge issue here. As a mental health care professional, how do these long waiting periods, right, impact people who are trying to get the help that they need? 


Alexis Petrakis: Oh, it’s so painful to see. And I had kind of heard the reputation before I started at Kaiser that there were long waits in between return appointments. Your sessions were spaced out. I naively thought, Well, that must just be for the adult therapy, right? Because adults can maybe, you know, attend the groups and they can kind of hold it together in between. They would never do that to children, right? But they do. And there would be waits between like four weeks, six weeks. At my worst, I was booking eight weeks in between appointments. The impact is either people get worse um and they reach out to you desperately by email or phone in between appointments. And you’re trying to kind of provide care in these you know a quick phone call or trying to, by email, provide resources or they just don’t get better. And extended suffering is unacceptable. The medical oath around do no harm really starts to come into play when you’re just seeing people suffer for extended periods of time. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. I’m wondering how would you respond to, you know, the folks, the critics out there who say that like going on strike. Right. Might actually be doing more harm than good for the patients. How do you kind of reconcile that for yourself? 


Alexis Petrakis: That is the crux of the most painful part of this for me. And I know for most of my colleagues and what I’ve come home to is that they have been subject to unnecessary, unethical and unconscionable harm before this strike. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. 


Alexis Petrakis: The harm that’s been going on for over ten years. We need to call it what it is. It was a crisis before the strike. It was a crisis before the pandemic. And the pandemic really escalated it to a level of the acuity and the intensity and the need just went sky high. I refuse to return to a system of care that continues to harm my patients. And Kaiser, these are their patients right now. And they need to take responsibility for them and make the change that’s needed. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Now, just before the strike kicked off, Kaiser said that your union was, quote, “exploiting current challenges as a bargaining tactic”. And according to the Sacramento Bee, the network appears to be kind of bracing for a long fight, at least three months from the looks of it. And Kaiser is reportedly offering big signing bonuses to outside providers to kind of make good on its legal obligation to get people the care they need. I’m wondering for you, what does that tell you about where you all stand in negotiations right now, that these are the decisions that Kaiser is taking? 


Alexis Petrakis: What that says to me is that they’re scared and they’re putting false ideas out into the media and out into community. There is not capacity in the community to handle the caseloads of over 2000 therapists. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm. 


Alexis Petrakis: There is not capacity in the clinics of the managers and if they get scab therapists to come in. We were already hemorrhaging therapists. We lost 17% of our union membership in the last year. That’s extraordinary. They’re speaking as if there is capacity out there that just somehow was untapped and now they can pull in on it. And to the point around us capitalizing on these circumstances, that is disrespectful. And I’m so committed and passionate about the work that we do and doing it in a way that is in alignment with the standards of care in the field of psychology. And I hope that this can activate them to come back to the table and be committed to making change in the mental health care services here. And I think they have this unique opportunity because they have so much financial resources as well as organizational structure and resources. They have this opportunity to be a leader in the field and even set the tone in the model, hopefully for the nation, because I know that these issues are touching everyone’s lives in our country. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I wonder, like, what are some of those like specific changes that you and your colleagues would like to see Kaiser kind of take on in this moment? 


Alexis Petrakis: So really to be able to build a system that can meet people as frequently as they need to be seen. We need more therapists. We need to be able to retain the therapists that we do have, and we need to be able to have time to do the indirect patient care. And so that’s not the face to face time, right? The individual 50 minute hour. It’s the phone call to the parent to make sure that they’re on the same page. It’s the consultation with the teacher. It’s a consultation with maybe a primary care doctor. All these things that really help us make sure that we understand and we’re all on the same page with this child or this patient’s entire treatment team, which includes at home and at school. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Do you personally do you as a collective, see the strike going on for that long, four months, which it seems Kaiser is prepping for? And if so, how are you all kind of gearing up to sustain throughout that period of time? 


Alexis Petrakis: I do not see it lasting that long. I have already heard wind from the clinics that it’s very stressful, its very chaotic. They’re putting out these calls to the community therapists with these $10,000 signing bonuses and all this kind of stuff. I have a lot of friends in the community as well, and they wouldn’t take that offer. They also don’t have the capacity for it. So I don’t think Kaiser can sustain three months in terms of us preparing. I mean, what we’re doing is we’re talking to folks like you and really getting our message out there. So to get the word out of what’s happening and the patients are coming forward, I mean, I’m humbled by the bravery and the vulnerability that these patients are showing by saying, you know what, I’m a victim of this system and I refuse to just accept it silently. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll put a link to the National Union of Health Care Workers website in our show notes where you can find more information about how to support mental health care workers like Alexis. And that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. . 




Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Officials in Pakistan yesterday said the country’s monsoon season this year has triggered flash floods and landslides that have killed over 1000 people since mid-June. The devastation has also left at least another 1500 people hurt and destroyed nearly 300,000 homes. We know we’re throwing a lot of numbers at you, but that means one in seven Pakistanis have been affected by these floods, which is not good news by any means. Authorities are calling the amount of rainfall unprecedented. So this is yet another place that’s impacted by climate change. And to make matters worse, the monsoon rains should have stopped a month ago, and experts worry that the peak has yet to come. We will link to some resources in our show notes for where you can donate to relief efforts. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, that is terrifying. This has already affected so many people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And the worst is yet to come here. So just terrifying. Deadly fighting broke out in Libya over the weekend between two rival militias seeking government power. Authorities in the capital, Tripoli, said yesterday that 32 people died and over 150 were wounded. Shelling hit hospitals and medical centers, making it difficult for ambulances and health workers to aid civilians. And this is the worst turbulence the country has seen in two years. Health officials are urging both sides to come to a truce and are already working to evacuate people who may be affected if the fighting intensifies. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Good luck and have a safe flight NASA. The agency plans to launch its most powerful rocket to date, Artemis One to the moon today. The rocket will send an unmanned space capsule on a 42 day trip around the moon before it eventually splashes back down to earth. We don’t want to add stress to the situation here, but this is kind of a make or break moment. If successful, it’ll show that NASA can compete with billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who have turned Space into another arena to dominate because they were getting bored of dominating our country’s feeble tax code and labor laws. Not to mention, this is NASA’s first mission to the moon in 50 years. If all goes according to plan, a future Artemis mission will carry astronauts to the moon in 2024. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This whole headline is like bananas to me. Like if NASA could compete with random billionaires like, excuse me, what? How did we get here? What is this world? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Also headed to the stars. But on a separate flight are the ashes of Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols. Nichols passed away last month at 89, and it has been announced that her remains will travel hundreds of millions of miles into space aboard one private spaceflight company’s so-called enterprise flight, which will also carry the ashes of Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, among others. The launch is scheduled for later this year, and apparently you can still reserve a spot on board for about $12,500. If you think your deceased loved one would want aliens at their funeral. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I’ve heard that funerals are very expensive these days and so maybe $12,500 actually isn’t that hefty of a price tag? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m just trying to wrap my head around that this flight seems to be occupied only by um [laughter] dead people’s ashes. Like there seem to be no actual people. I don’t know. Wild.


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] The new big name in labor organizing is Mr. Pibb because a Chipotle just unionized for the first time last week, workers at the Chipotle in Lansing, Michigan, voted 11 to 3 to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters amid a labor shortage that’s taken power away from management, staff cited low wages and under scheduling as reasons for the collective action. Chipotle corporate likely would have preferred to re-fry all the employees that were standing together as proud, intact beans. Last month, the company unceremoniously closed one location in Maine that was preparing for its own union election. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, listen, Chipotle. Not cool. Not cool behavior between Mr. Pibb, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. There’s a lot going on [laughter] in this headline that I’m like trying to wrap my brain around aside from Chipotle bad. [laughing] 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And in an upset in the world of smokable plants. A new Gallup poll indicates that smoking marijuana is now more popular than smoking tobacco in the U.S. for the first time on record. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [making airhorn sounds with their mouth] [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: 16% of Americans said that they had smoked marijuana in the past week, where only 11% said that they had smoked a tobacco cigarette. Compare this to 1969, where only 4% of Americans polled had said they even tried weed and 40% said they had smoked cigs in the past week. All of this is a clue to President Biden that if he wants to complete his evolution into Dark Brandon, he should legalize pot next. Let’s get that presidential approval rating up to 420%. I believe in you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I would just love to see Biden and Harris do a celebratory puff puff pass, you know, in the Rose Garden. [laughter] Why not? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why not? Yeah. I mean, for them politically, that’s definitely the primary reason that we’re thinking here. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. Some exciting news. The final episode of Another Russia is out now. If you haven’t tuned in yet, now is your chance to hear Zhanna recount the night of her father’s assassination and reflect on what her father’s legacy means for present day Russia. You can binge all six episodes of Another Russia right now wherever you get your podcasts. [music break] That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, report your weed consumption accurately to a poll and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just the price of space funerals like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And in solidarity with Mr. Pibb.


Priyanka Aribindi: Who I didn’t know was still around until 25 minutes ago. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Dr. Pepper found shaking in his boots. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. A rivalry like our tennis rivalry, apparently, our podcasting one. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.