OAKLAND, Calif. — Some 700 members of Local 39 of the International Union of Operating Engineers continue to maintain picket lines around the clock at 24 Kaiser hospitals in Northern California. The strikers are demanding respect and a contract that is competitive with those of other stationary engineers in the Bay Area. The unionists have been on strike since Sept. 18 and are gaining more support.
Contingents of workers from Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 57,000 medical assistants, technicians and other healthcare workers, began joining the engineers’ picket lines Oct. 18 at different Kaiser hospitals each day.
Striking engineers from Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Vallejo, San Rafael and beyond converged at Kaiser’s hospital here Oct. 13 to protest the company’s refusal to budge from its contract offer. They were greeted by honks of support from passing cars.
“These are my fellow workers out here. We are all labor and we need to stick together,” emergency-room nurse Stacey Eddie told this Militant worker-correspondent on the Kaiser Oakland hospital picket line. Eddie said she’ll be talking with other nurses about how they can do more to support the strikers.
“The wage being offered is far below inflation,” said Anna Perts, a Local 39 retiree who worked as a biomedical engineer at Kaiser for 35 years. “They have been working throughout the pandemic and this is the thanks they get!”
Strikers at the hospital here said that during the first weeks of the strike they were able to keep trucks from entering. But then cops threatened to arrest them for peacefully picketing, and they were forced to stop.
At the same time, more than 24,000 nurses and other Kaiser workers in Southern California and in Oregon overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike against the bosses’ offer of a 1% pay raise a year as well as its demands for a two-tier wage scale that could reduce the pay of new hires by at least 26%.