OAKLAND, Calif. — The 700 members of IUOE Stationary Engineers Local 39, who are on strike at 24 Northern California Kaiser hospitals, got a boost Nov. 18 when members of other hospital unions participated in a one-day strike in support of their fight. Thousands of medical assistants, X-ray technicians, phlebotomists, lab scientists and other medical workers lined in front of Kaiser hospitals from Santa Rosa and Vacaville in the north to San Jose in the south.
Members of the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, the Office and Professional Employees Local 29 and Engineers and Scientists of California Local 20 waved signs saying, “Their fight is our fight” and “We stand with Local 39 Engineers.”
“I am surprised and happy to see how big the protest is. There is strength in numbers,” Gloria Williams, a member of the SEIU, told this Militant worker-correspondent as she picketed outside the Oakland hospital.
As they enter their third month on strike, Local 39 has yet to see a wage offer from Kaiser competitive with those of other stationary engineers in the Bay Area. With rising inflation, they are opposed to the company’s attempts to push one-time bonuses instead of wage increases that can be built on in future contract fights.
Arnitra Hands, a receptionist for Kaiser in Berkeley, said she came to the Oakland picket to support Local 39 and to spread the word about Kaiser’s threat to eliminate some receptionist jobs. She said Kaiser wants to leave the patients without the help she and her co-workers give and replace them with online check-in. “Kaiser workers need to support each other,” she said. “If you hurt one of us, you hurt us all.”
On Nov. 19, members of the California Nurses Association walked out and joined the engineers’ pickets. In a statement announcing their 24-hour solidarity strike, union President Cathy Kennedy said they support the strikers standing firm against being moved between hospitals, as the bosses want. “This model would institutionalize the staffing shortages that have already hurt patients and workers,” she said.