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'We need our engineers:' Hundreds gather for sympathy strike in solidarity with Kaiser engineers

In a statement by the hospital system, Kaiser officials said the hospital has been "bargaining in good faith with Local 39 IUOE," which represents about 600 Kaiser Permanente operating engineers. 

For two months, Local 39 engineers have been on strike 24/7 outside and in front of Kaiser Permanente Redwood City, holding signs and posterboards demanding equal wages to those of other operating engineers in the area. 

And on Thursday around 7 a.m., hundreds of people joined them and stuck around for 24 hours to show support for their fight against the healthcare giant who last month accused the strikers of vandalism and disruptive behavior. Many of the protesters had been there since 7 a.m. and planned to stay until the evening hours. As cars drove by honking their horns, strike leaders rallied the crowd.

Strike Captain Oscar Carcamo, an electrical biomedical engineer for nuclear medicine, said he's on the bargaining team for the union's contract.

"We've been battling for fair wages," he said. "We've been negotiating to have wage parity with other contracts that our union, Local 39, has with other hospitals. We're not trying to get more, we're not trying to get less. All we want is wage parity."

At a meeting with the hospital system, Carcamo said the union members waited for six hours and met for only 10 minutes "just pushing numbers around."

In a recorded statement, Michelle Gaskill-Hames, senior vice president, hospital and health plan operations at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said that in bargaining with unions, Kaiser has not proposed any takeaways and "has offered annual increases to keep our valued staff among the highest paid in the country."

In a statement by the hospital system, Kaiser officials said the hospital has been "bargaining in good faith with Local 39 IUOE," which represents about 600 Kaiser Permanente operating engineers. 

"We are optimistic that we can resolve the remaining issues with Local 39 at the bargaining table and reach an agreement that continues to reward our employees and supports health care affordability, just as we have with several unions this week," officials said in the statement

At the sympathy strike, Kaiser Lead Shop Steward Ron Cook, a Service Employees International Union member said Ron Cook said the sympathy strikers came to support them.

"An injury to one Union is an injury to all unions," said the 58-year-old.

In a statement to Local 39 Stationary Engineers last month, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Debora Catsavas and Chief of Medical Center Administration and Operation Darin Tankersley, Ph.D. said the hospital system had met with union leaders "a total of nine times for bargaining since July."

"We will continue to bargain in good faith in the hope of reaching a final, mutually beneficial contract as soon as possible," the Kaiser officials said in a statement. "We're pleased to have already reached agreements on three specific provisions of a new contract and look forward to completing the remaining portions of the contract.

"We continue to bargain actively and have proposed across-the-board increases and bonuses for each year of a 3-year contract that would keep our engineers among the best compensated in the profession," Catsavas and Tankersley said.

Another striker, Lisa Van Zevern, echoed Carcamo

“Kaiser has allowed them (the engineers) to be out here for two months and still haven’t bargained with them in good faith…it’s just about fair wages," Van Zevern said. "We stand in solidarity with them.”

Local 39 has been on strike for 62 days since Sept. 18, two months to the date the union's contract with the health giant expired, said Carcamo. He said that the striking workers are outside the facility 24/7, each at the picket line 40 hours a week.

Kaiser, said Gaskill-Hames, "has contingency plans in place to continue to provide care despite the union's call for staff to walk away from their patients."

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.