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‘Strikegiving’ Update: Nurses, Mental Health Therapists & Other Kaiser Permanente Health Workers Strike To Support Stationary Engineers

Published Wednesday, November 24, 2021
by Marilyn Bechtel/People’s World
‘Strikegiving’ Update: Nurses, Mental Health Therapists & Other Kaiser Permanente Health Workers Strike To Support Stationary Engineers

(OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA) - Over 60,000 Members of other Unions representing Kaiser Permanente Workers throughout Northern California held strikes last week in solidarity with Members of Stationary Engineers Local 39, who’ve been walking picket lines since their contract expired in mid-September.

More than 40,000 Workers belonging to Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-Union of Healthcare Workers (UHW), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 29 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 20 stayed off the job at 21 Kaiser facilities in northern California.

Among them were Optometrists, Licensed Vocational Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants, Surgical and Pharmacy Technicians, Housekeepers and Workers in hundreds of other positions.

They were followed by some 20,000 Registered Nurses, Members of the California Nurses Association, and nearly 2,000 Mental Health Clinicians represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The Mental Health Clinicians have been working without a contract since October 1st and have been engaged in a long struggle with Kaiser over the Health Care Giant’s rejection of proposals to increase staffing and reduce the very long times their patients must currently wait for care.

Now, many Kaiser patients must wait one to three months between therapy appointments.

Kaiser stationary engineer Mark Sutherland said: “We just want to be met at the bargaining table in good faith.  Sixty-three days is too long.  For us, the Local 39 Engineers, and for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, who are now out of a contract, do the right thing!”

Likening the Health Care Industry to a puzzle, and “everyone within Labor a piece of that puzzle,” he said, “Without us, without a puzzle piece there, or a piece missing, we cannot give the care that Kaiser talks about, that perfect care.”

Kaiser claims its Engineers are the most highly paid in the area, Sutherland said, but in fact, Local 39 Members are the lowest-paid Engineers in the Health Care Industry.

Expressing great appreciation for the solidarity fellow Kaiser Workers have given the Engineers during the more than two months they have been picketing Kaiser, Sutherland declared: “Let’s put all the puzzle pieces together - let’s get back to the bargaining table, and let’s give the health care Kaiser talks about.”

Leading the crowd in chanting, “Oakland is a Union Town,” Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Liz Ortega said: “It’s a damn shame these Workers have been out here for sixty-three days and counting!  (The (135,000) Workers the Labor Council represents) are here to say: ‘We have your back! We will not stand for Kaiser’s corporate greed.’”

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