WAIANAE, Hawaii — Nearly 500 nurses’ aides, groundskeepers, housekeepers, cooks and other hospital workers have been on strike at Kaiser’s three facilities on the island of Maui since Feb. 22, fighting for higher wages, no forced overtime and safe staff-patient levels. The members of United Public Workers Local 646 voted down the bosses’ fourth and latest proposed contract March 20.
The company’s wage offer did “not keep up with the inflation rate,” the union’s state director, Kalani Werner, said in a statement.
Ever since Kaiser took over seven years ago, “the pay was really low for the new people,” but in some other departments it’s the opposite with new hires paid more than longtime workers, Andy Quema, a cook at Maui Memorial Medical Center, told the Militant by phone April 10. “They also cut down on the number of sick days.”
“We are going to fight now or we are just going to be stuck like this forever and we are never going to improve,” he said. “We can see now how Kaiser works, how they treat their workers. It’s all about the money. They are trying to get the least number of workers to do a lot of things.”
“There are a lot of Filipinos on the picket,” noted Jonathan Cala, an air conditioning mechanic at Maui Memorial Medical Center. “We have Mexicans, Japanese, Thai, Hawaiians, it’s a very mixed group. The strike made us stronger. I got to know the people more. It’s like a strong friendship, because we are out there and it’s not easy day in and day out walking the picket.
“It’s not just for us, it’s for the future,” he said. “To strengthen the other unions and other workers as well.”
Send messages of solidarity and contributions to United Public Workers, 841 Kolu Street, Wailuki, Maui, HI 96793 or call (808) 244-0815.