Editor,

At Kaiser Permanente, our labor unions have historically played an important role in our efforts to provide more people access to high-quality affordable care. We’re proud to be one of the most unionized health care organizations in the country.

We’ve been in active bargaining with Local 39, the union representing several hundred operating engineers in Northern California, since July and we continue to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement. 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 $185,000/year. We offered a reasonable wage increase and no takeaways, but the union is demanding much more. The union called an open-ended strike, seeking significant wage increases. During this strike, engineering duties are handled by experienced engineers whom have been prepared for this work.

An important correction to Julie Lind’s Oct. 4 letter: Local 39 members continue to have health care benefits for themselves and their families. We’ve reassured our engineers we have not taken any action to stop paying for their benefits for the duration of the strike. 

We’re extremely grateful for our front-line health care workforce, whose commitment to providing care and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarkable. We look forward to having our engineers back as soon as possible to join their colleagues in compassionately providing care every day. 

Sheila Gilson

Redwood City

The letter writer is the senior vice president/area manager, Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center.

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(5) comments

Terence Y

So is there a union rule that stationary engineers, if they’re unhappy with their employment package, can’t quit and find another job? Similar to what plenty of folks do on a daily basis. Maybe in negotiations, Ms. Gilson can offer higher wage increases, but remove benefits and retirement packages to offset, or more than offset, these wage increases. Win-win? By the looks of it, I should have become a stationary engineer. I mean, I’ve been stationary at plenty of jobs, bullying a keyboard and mouse, but not being paid what I felt I was worth (does anybody?).

Tafhdyd

Why do I get the feeling that the truth lies somewhere between what Julie Lind says and what Sheila Gilson says?

Ray Fowler

Because you are a perceptive person...

smclcjulie

Several important corrections to Ms. Gilson’s letter:

In my letter, I made no mention of Local 39 receiving or not receiving benefits while on strike. I spoke generally of the struggles of striking members and what has to be considered when deciding whether or not to vote to strike. Further, when comparing the offer made by Kaiser to Local 39 to the wage and benefit packages of surrounding hospitals and buildings, Kaiser is offering $1.85 per hour less than their counterparts in year one, $3.79 less per hour less than their counterparts in year two and $5.90 per hour less than their counterparts in year three. Over the three year term L39 would receive over $20,000 less than other engineers even after factoring in the 1% bonus each year.

On a separate note, since you decided to announce to the world how much the engineers make, in an attempt to weaken public support, perhaps you’ll choose to share how much money YOU are making in your role with the organization. I’d wager it, as well as the total comp paid to other employees in management and administration, far exceeds that earned by L39. We take exception to those who try to pay our highly trained members less than others doing the same work, or to the attempt to portray them as greedy for demanding pay parity and continuing to fight to be paid what they are worth. Particularly by a multi-billion dollar employer in the county that has the dubious honor of having the highest cost of living in the state, the largest gap between the rich and the poor and an average single family home price of 1.4 million.

- Julie Lind, Executive Secretary/Treasurer

San Mateo Labor Council

Ray Fowler

Hello, Julie

I sat on your side of the bargaining table for more than a dozen years, but I have to say that ordinarily management's rejection of a union proposal cannot be reasonably crafted into an allegation that management has failed to bargain in good faith. The good faith standard is actually a modest one. If both sides show up and exchange proposals... they are bargaining in good faith. DJ readers do not have all the background on stalled talks between Local 39 and Kaiser. So, can you explain what Kaiser has done to support your claim that management is not acting in good faith?

You wrote earlier this week that union workers, "on the picket line are not getting paid nor will they have health coverage for themselves or their families until an agreement is reached." That statement seems to imply that Local 39 striking engineers at Kaiser will not be entitled to health coverage until both sides come to a resolution of the current dispute. I'm guessing that's why Sheila wrote to the DJ advising readers that striking workers have not lost their health care coverage. As an aside, I didn't see anything in Sheila's response supporting the idea that management has portrayed striking workers as greedy.

If the recent publication of letters from you and Sheila are any indication, it looks like there is a lot of work to be done before a contract can be signed. Good luck.

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