Hundreds of striking Kaiser engineers rally in the streets of Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Hundreds of Kaiser engineers took to the streets of Oakland Thursday to demand better wages. Union workers have been on strike for nearly two weeks and say they aren't going back until the two sides can come to an agreement on a fair contract.

"If you want to have a decent lifestyle, you have to make a few bucks," said engineer Lemont Reid. His thoughts echo that of the more than 700 union workers currently on strike.

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente announces tentative agreement with unions to avoid nationwide strike

"They've offered us a 2% wage, we do make a decent wage but the way that this economy is right now a 13% increase in prices of everything, it doesn't equal out what they've offered us," says union worker Russell Tiffany.

The situation has gotten so bad, trash wasn't picked up at Oakland Medical Center three days ago. An anonymous Kaiser employee shared trash pictures with ABC7 News and said union Waste Management employees did not cross the picket line. Kaiser says picketers blocked the waste hauling trucks, they also tell us the trash has since been cleared.

Union representatives say Kaiser came with a take it or leave it contract earlier this month. They voted against it and authorized a strike.

"They want to give a bonus and not an increase, which over time will result in lower wages," says union worker Matt Jones.

RELATED: Oakland approves sale of city-owned garage for Kaiser HQ

In a statement, Kaiser said that the engineers are some of the highest-paid in the nation in their profession if you include wages, benefits, and retirement. Those we talked with were quick to respond to that.
"We're in the Bay Area and it's also one of the highest costs of living in the country," says Xitlali Sanchez of the Alameda Labor Council.

"We keep the lights on, and the machines running, and air circulating in the building, what we do is important," says Christina Anderson.

"Something happens right now, there are no engineers in there. If you have a family member in there wouldn't you be worried and wonder if a bed needs to go down or a machine goes down? Who's going to fix it? There's nobody in there," says Local 39 engineer Cynthia Diaz.

RELATED: Bay Area Kaiser nurses protest lack of masks, medical supplies

Kaiser refused an on-camera interview but gave a statement saying they are offering a "reasonable wage increase and no takeaways, but the union is demanding more."

Union representatives say 24 Kaiser locations in Northern California are currently affected by the strike.

Story updated Oct. 1, 2021 to include response from Kaiser employee about concerns from patients about the safety of facilities:

"We made extensive preparations so that during this strike, engineering duties are handled by skilled and experienced engineers, including those brought in from Kaiser Permanente facilities in other regions across the country. In addition, they are being supported by qualified contractors and equipment specialists, all of whom have been appropriately prepared for this work."
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