Engineer Don Reed is among members of local 39, on strike against Kaiser Permanente
photo credit: Marc Albert

They aren't doctors or nurses, but for a modern hospital, they're nearly as critical. Members of operating engineers Local 39 repair and maintain medical equipment. Along with the actual hospital buildings, including electrical work, plumbing and ventilation.

Union spokesperson Shane Mortensen said that in the lead-up to the expiration of their three year contract last Friday, Kaiser was and remains recalcitrant.

"The union's been trying to get the employer to negotiate for months, and they waited till the very last day, at which time they rejected all of the union's proposals and gave us a very low ball offer," Mortensen said.

The dispute involves wages, working conditions and benefits. Mortensen said those he represents at Kaiser are being paid less than at some other institutions. 

Kaiser disputes that, saying its compensation rates are higher. The company said it has met the union for bargaining nine times since July.

On the picket line in Santa Rosa Wednesday, station engineer Jorge Ortiz said there is growing solidarity.

"We're just trying to stick together," Ortiz said. "We're getting more and more support from the medical assistants, the nurses to the receptionists. They have a contracts coming up and all that, I told them, 'hey, this is a thing where we all have to come together as one and try to help each other out."

Fellow striker Don Reed, also a station engineer in Santa Rosa, said he hopes for a quick settlement, but isn't expecting one.

"Negotiations haven't been all that great," Reed said. "The last one they had Kaiser was only there for four minutes and they left, so, we're going to stand strong until we get something that's going to be halfway descent for, to make a living in this county, especially in Sonoma County."


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