UC workers to vote on strike by end of month

On Tuesday, a labor union that represents about 21,000 UC workers, announced it will vote from Oct. 28 to 30 to decide whether to go on strike in response to the alleged intimidation of workers by the university during strikes earlier this year.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 accused the university of intimidating patient-care employees by threatening them with disciplinary action during strikes over pension reform in May. On Sept. 12, the Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency that oversees collective bargaining pertaining to employees of California public schools, issued a complaint against the UC system on behalf of the union and began an investigation into the claims.

The university denies allegations that it created a coercive environment, as outlined in the complaint.

AFSCME’s vote to strike is not a response to failed negotiations or the UC system’s recent implementation of a revised pension plan but is a move to protest the treatment of UC employees, according to AFSCME communications director Todd Stenhouse.

“They (UC employees) have the right to be in a workplace free of intimidation and coercion,” Stenhouse said. “Our workers are very united right now — there is a lot of justified disgust about the way many of their colleagues have been treated.”

Should union members vote in favor of striking, AFSCME will proceed with coordinating a strike, Stenhouse said.

According the the PERB website, the board will issue a complaint regarding accusations of unfair practices if the agent reviewing the allegations “concludes that there are enough facts alleged that an unfair practice may have been committed.”

Both parties would then proceed to attend an informal conference, in which the agent would work with them to try to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Should this fail, PERB would schedule a formal hearing, at which both parties would present their cases to an administrative law judge.

In a written response to the complaint, the university’s legal counsel calls AFSCME’s allegations “preposterous.”

The UC system said these accusations are part of the union’s efforts to blame the university for the low employee attendance during strikes in May, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

“They have a legal right to strike, and we wouldn’t interfere,” Klein said. “But no one wants to strike.”

On May 21, 97 percent of union members voted in favor of a strike. About 75 percent of employees, however, continued to work, according to Klein. She said a strike would be detrimental to university operations.

UC President Janet Napolitano plans to meet with AFSCME representatives but not as part of the collective bargaining process, Klein said.

“We are all university employees, and we need to work together,” Klein said. “We urge the union leadership to return to the bargaining table so we may negotiate a fair contract.”

Contact Jessie Lau at [email protected].