As Strikesgiving rolls on, Stationary Engineers continue their fight for a fair contract at Kaiser
November 29, 2021: Stationary Engineers Local 39, which represents about 700 structural and biomedical engineers at Kaiser facilities throughout Northern California, went on strike at midnight on Friday, September 17. The work of Local 39 members is essential to keeping our hospitals running. They repair and maintain critical medical equipment, as well as the hospital itself, including all the electrical, plumbing, refrigeration, and heating and air-conditioning systems across the medical centers.
Members of Local 39 have now been walking the picket line for 74 days as Kaiser routinely disrespects these critical hospital workers by not even responding to many of their proposals. As the fight drags on, tens of thousands of our union siblings at 21 Kaiser hospitals have joined in sympathy strikes, including SEIU UHW, IFPTE Local 20, Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29, the California Nurses Association (CNA), and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
Mark Sutherland, a Local 39 member, told Oakland North that he believed this dispute was about more than just a dispute over the modest pay increases engineers are fighting for in the face of skyrocketing cost of living. “I truly believe they’re just trying to tear the union apart,” Sutherland said. “I believe that they’re really trying to make an example of Local 39 to send a message to the other unions that if you stand up to the 800-pound gorilla, we’ll tear you limb from limb.”
COVID-19 has laid bare what most union members across the workforce already knew: Large corporations (even so-called nonprofits like Kaiser, which brought in $6.4 billion in income in 2020, and public employers like cities and counties) will not hesitate to put their bottom line ahead of the health, safety, and well-being of their frontline workers. For too long, we’ve seen budgets balanced on the backs of the frontline workers while revenue soars, and a select few at the top continue to enjoy lavish benefits and compensation.
“The courageous sympathy strikes by over 40,000 union members at Kaiser in support of Local 39 members serves as a powerful reminder of what solidarity is all about—as working people, we all share common goals and aspirations. When we set aside our small differences and work together towards creating a better world for ourselves and our loved ones, there’s so much we can accomplish,” said Jennifer Esteen, SEIU 1021 VP of Organizing.
Want to show your support for IUOE Local 39 members? Find a hospital near you and swing by a picket line.