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ROSEVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Health care workers at Kaiser Permanente said they’re overworked and underpaid and Thursday they made their voices heard by holding a strike and protest in front of the Roseville facility.

Katrina Mendoza is an emergency technician and has worked for Kaiser for 22-years.

But as of recently, she said the workload has become too much for her and her coworkers to handle.

“The disrespect that they’ve given to the Kaiser health care workers is unacceptable,” Mendoza said. “You feel it on the floor. You know when you’re coming into work and you’re six short.”

On top of that, Mendoza says she and her colleagues are not being treated fairly when it comes to pay.

“Southern California is getting incentive pay to work extra shifts for Kaiser, for our union, and Northern California is not getting the same respect,” she told FOX40.

Kaiser engineers said this is week three of their strike.

“We’re just asking for equivalent wages to what other hospitals are offering. That’s all,” said Charlie Solt, the Director of Public Employees with Stationary Engineers Local 39.

With an increase in the cost of living and employees needing to pick up extra shifts to make up for the staffing issues, these engineers – who are responsible for maintaining hospital equipment – said they believe Kaiser just doesn’t care.

“They offered 11 cents more the other day, which wasn’t enough to make a difference for anybody,” Solt said.

A Kaiser Permanente spokesperson would not do an interview with FOX40 but did provide a statement that says in part they are hiring and on track to bring on 1,500 nurses by the end of the year. On top of that, they say Kaiser engineers are the highest paid in their profession and now they’re asking for too much, but they respect the engineers’ lawful right to conduct a strike. The full statement can be read below.

After more than 20 months of delivering care in this pandemic, we have nothing but admiration and gratitude for our dedicated staff, all of whom have continued to work diligently to care for our members and patients every day. We recognize what a monumental effort this continues to be, and we remain committed to supporting our employees and meeting their own physical and mental health care needs. During the pandemic this has included providing nearly $600 million in employee assistance to ensure that frontline employees had access to alternate housing options, special childcare grants, and two full weeks of additional paid leave for COVID-19 illness and exposure. Late last fall, labor and management leaders recognized that year-end performance bonus programs for frontline employees could be a challenge to achieve in the pandemic, so we chose to recognize the dedicated efforts of our employees by providing at least a 100% payout of their performance sharing bonus payment this spring.  

The entire Placer and El Dorado county area is being hit especially hard by high COVID rates during this surge, and the community’s health care systems and workers all overcame long hours in difficult circumstances.  While staffing continues to be a challenge across health care, Kaiser Permanente continues to make significant investments in our workforce, including aggressive hiring and continuing to support our teams and their need for respite by bringing in experienced temporary staff.  In fact, Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-UHW – which represents mainly housekeeping, administrative, and support positions – have partnered to establish Futuro Health, a $130 million nonprofit organization dedicated to training to help meet the projected demand in California for approximately a half-million of these workers by 2024.  And, in spite of the acute shortage of nurses in the state, Kaiser Permanente Northern California will have hired an estimated 1,500 experienced nurses by the end of the year, in addition to adding 250 new nurses who will graduate from Kaiser Permanente’s nurse residency program.

Today’s activity will not have any effect on patient care and services.

Kim Menzel, Senior Vice President and Area Manager, Kaiser Permanente Roseville

At Kaiser Permanente, our history and our future are deeply connected to organized labor. From our founding, labor unions have played an important role in our efforts to give more people access to high-quality care and make care more affordable. And we remain committed to working together for the members and communities that rely on us. We are proud to be one of the most unionized health care organizations in the country.

We are in active bargaining with Local 39, the union which represents several hundred operating engineers in Northern California and we have a bargaining session scheduled for this Friday. The engineers represented by Local 39 are among the highest paid in their profession in the country, earning total compensation (wages, benefits, and retirement) of more than $180,000 a year. We are offering a reasonable wage increase, and no takeaways, but the union is demanding much more. As a bargaining tactic, the union has called an open-ended strike, seeking a significant increase in wages.

While we strongly believe that differences in bargaining are best worked out at the bargaining table, we respect the rights of unions to lawfully conduct a strike. We acknowledge our operating engineers who are peacefully picketing to demand higher wages. However, union activists are engaging in disruptive behavior that puts our patients and other employees at risk, and disrupts the communities we serve, which we will not tolerate. These union activists have pulled fire alarms without cause, blocked the delivery of critical supplies to our Oakland Medical Center, made false reports to regulatory authorities—wasting critical public safety resources—vandalized property, and created deliberate disturbance of hospital patients with noise making.

We don’t believe that these actions are supported by the majority of our engineers. We have asked L39 union leadership to intervene for the benefit of our patients and staff but unfortunately these types of tactics have continued. This is disrespectful at any time, but unconscionable during a pandemic, where we are caring for sick and injured patients.

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.

We are extremely grateful for our front-line health care workforce, whose commitment to providing care and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been inspiring. Our patients, employees, and community deserve better than

Carrie Owen Plietz, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals of Northern California