'Can't do our job without them': Bay Area Kaiser workers walk out in support of engineers union

Some health services were disrupted, and other Bay Area hospitals had to take in some of Kaiser's emergency room patients.

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Saturday, November 20, 2021
Major Bay Area walkout in support of Kaiser Engineers
Nurses and mental health clinicians across Northern California walked out in solidarity with engineers who have yet to reach an agreement with Kaiser.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Nurses and mental health clinicians in Northern California walked out today in solidarity of the engineers union who have yet to reach an agreement with Kaiser. This disruption had a significant impact on patient care here in the Bay Area.

RELATED: Hundreds of striking Kaiser engineers rally in the streets of Oakland

Early Friday morning, Kaiser union workers rallied in Oakland for a second day in a row. Today nurses joined the walkout to show their support for engineers who have been on strike since their contract expired in September.

"We thought we were making headway. We thought we were going to get a fair deal, just market value based on what other engineers make in the Bay Area," said Mark Sutherland, a Kaiser engineer.

Kaiser argues that between their salaries and benefits, their engineers are among the best compensated in their profession.

Robin Watkins, a nurse at Kaiser, said his job is getting harder without the engineers.

"They should be back in the building doing what they do fixing the equipment, helping us take care of our patients. We can't do our job without them and for them to be out this long makes no sense," added Watkins.

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente reaches deal to avoid strike involving 1,200 pharmacists

Mental health professionals also marched to highlight the deficiencies in their division.

"Every time we have to tell them 'you have to wait four, five, six months,' sometime more, months between appointments, it's horrible for them, their psychiatric symptoms worsen and again Kaiser is not addressing this problem," said Alex Klein, who is a child psychologist at Kaiser.

In a statement, Kaiser acknowledged there is a national shortage of mental health clinicians and that hiring more of them is a priority.

Kaiser says it has more than 300 open positions in California alone.

Today's walkout forced Kaiser to postpone some non-urgent procedures and appointments. Other Bay Area hospitals had to take in some of Kaiser's emergency room patients.

VIDEO: Bay Area Kaiser nurses picket over patient home care program

Bay Area Kaiser nurses are protesting a program called Medically Home, which provides care for a patient in their home rather than in the hospital.