In solidarity with striking hospital engineers from Local 39, Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and allies are picketing across Northern California this week to protest short-staffing and threats to patient care. Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) and other union members are demanding that Kaiser improve staffing levels and invest in its current workforce.

“Healthcare workers have been stretched so thin that we’re at a breaking point,” says Maria Encisco, medical assistant at Kaiser Union City. “Our engineer coworkers are the heart of patient safety and care, working right at our sides. If your loved one needs a ventilator, it’s an engineer who makes sure it works.  It’s on them to make sure everything in our hospitals works—from life support machines to plumbing—but they’re overloaded and short-staffed like the rest of us. Kaiser needs to stop disrespecting them and understaffing our hospitals.”

According to the union, the Local 39 engineers maintain medical equipment, such as ventilators, life-support machines, pumps, and IV machines. They also help keep Kaiser hospital patients and workers safe by ensuring that everything inside and outside the building runs smoothly. This includes testing emergency generators, fire lights safety, hot water boilers, and cooling towers, as well as maintaining all patient rooms and bathrooms.

According to SEIU-UHW, the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente organization reported a net income of $6.4 billion in 2020. More than 58,000 Kaiser Permanente employees are members of SEIU-UHW. Local 39 represents approximately 700 engineers across Kaiser.