The University of California will seek a restraining order against a UC healthcare union representing nearly 13,000 workers in response to the union’s plans to strike on May 21.
If approved, the restraining order would prohibit the two-day strike planned by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299. According to a statement released by the UC Office of the President on Friday, strikes that pose an imminent threat to public health and safety are illegal under state law, and the university believes the strike would improperly withhold health care from the public.
Dianne Klein, a UC spokesperson, said that if the union cared about patient safety, it would not endanger patients by striking.
“This (strike) is one of their tactics to get what they want, which is a special deal for their workers,” Klein said. “That is not only unfair but fiscally irresponsible.”
The strike comes amid ongoing contract negotiations that began in June 2012. The university proposed a pension reform that would increase contributions toward pension benefits from both the university and employees, but AFSCME 3299 rejected these reforms, arguing that the university is prioritizing pensions over patient care.
According to Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for AFSCME 3299, the university is prioritizing executive pension benefits instead of adequate patient care and staffing.
“We are seeing the university cut corners in ways that are so dangerous for patients,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299.
AFSCME 3299 has established a Patient Protection Task Force to care for patients during the strike, but that it is something in which the university refuses to participate, according to Stenhouse.
During pension reform negotiations, AFSCME 3299 asked for caps on executive pension benefits, which the university would not discuss, according to Lybarger.
“Right now, these executives are going to retire on upwards of $300,000,” Lybarger said. “That’s a lot of money to live on for doing nothing.”
The university filed a similar restraining order in July 2008 in response to a planned AFSCME 3299 strike. The court approved the restraining order, but the union went ahead with the strike.
“If the court says you are prohibited from striking and they go ahead and do it anyway, they are breaking the law,” Klein said. “We hope there is not a strike. We are prepared for one.”
University Professional and Technical Employees, another UC medical workers union, also held a demonstration Wednesday at the five UC medical centers.
AFSCME 3299 also held a sit-down protest at Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento, resulting in the arrest of 13 demonstrators.
“We are in this fight to win real patient protection,” Lybarger said. “It’s not an option to emerge from this fight without having won real gains for our patients.”
Contact Tara Hurley at [email protected].