SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — The 700 members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 are on strike at 24 Kaiser hospitals across Northern California.
“We have been on the front-lines in these hospitals throughout the pandemic,” striker Jose Banta told the Militant as he picketed here Sept. 21. “Kaiser is offering us less than is being paid at other hospitals and below inflation.”
Kaiser rejected the union’s wage and benefit proposals and did not make a counteroffer until the last day of the contract, Sept. 17. Workers rejected it and went on strike the next day.
Among their responsibilities, stationary engineers maintain cooling, heating and water systems and ventilation in the rooms where COVID patients are treated to ensure those treating them are safe.
Stationary engineers at Eden and Sutter hospitals, who are not on strike, joined the picket lines in San Leandro. “Whatever is decided in this strike will affect workers at the other hospital systems,” Sutter worker Rick Fiery said.
“The strike is bringing our crew together. No matter what we are able to win we will go back more united,” striker Michael Salas said. “I used to talk about Kaiser being ‘us.’ Now it’s clear it’s the workers against Kaiser. It’s a battle.”