UC workers and grad students to strike Wednesday systemwide

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Student workers across all UC campuses will join in solidarity with the University of California’s largest union in a 24-hour strike Wednesday against allegations of unfair labor practices.

UC graduate student instructors, readers and undergraduate tutors affiliated with UC student-worker union United Auto Workers Local 2865 announced last week that it would join American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 in forming picketing lines on UC campuses and medical centers as a response to alleged intimidation tactics used against union workers during a two-day walkout in May.

Although neither the university nor union members could completely predict what might unfold in terms of total impact Wednesday, a number of graduate-student-run classes and discussion sections may be canceled for the day.

“(Workers) have the right to make determinations (to join the strike) … but we’ve had a lot of really positive responses,” said Amanda Armstrong, a UAW Local 2865 union representative and UC Berkeley graduate student.

The combined efforts of both unions could bring the total number of UC workers participating to nearly 35,000, possibly making Wednesday’s strike the largest in UC history, according to an open letter by Armstrong.

According to a Monday press release by the UC Office of the President, the California Public Employment Relations Board will seek an injunction 9 a.m. Tuesday on behalf of the university to cover employees working in critical health and safety roles who will go on strike. The UC system argued that their absence “poses an imminent threat to public health and safety.”

“Our hope is that AFSCME workers will put patients and students first and come to work on Wednesday,” said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron. “Patients and students are not bargaining chips, and these issues need to be resolved at the bargaining table. A strike is not productive for anyone.”

However, AFSCME 3299 Communications Director Todd Stenhouse said union members have been bargaining for about 18 months and offered the university concessions for prioritizing safer staffing procedures. Additionally, an AFSCME 3299 press release states that CalPERB has already affirmed its right to strike and agreed to voluntarily exempt nearly 50 critical health and safety employees to ensure a team is available to address medical emergencies.

In Berkeley, members of the two unions will picket at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue and followed by a mass rally on Sproul Plaza.

The Office of ASUC Senator Briana Mullen also started a petition asking that the campus and community “stand in solidarity with campus workers.” As of Monday evening, about 50 people had signed the petition.

The California Nurses Association, which represents nearly 12,000 UC nurses, had intended to strike in sympathy with AFSCME 3299 but withdrew after the UC system and the association reached a tentative agreement Saturday.

Ashleigh Luschei, a UC Berkeley sophomore, would normally attend Wednesday section from 10 to 11 a.m. for Anthropology 160AC but will have to forgo discussion due to the strike.

“It’s frustrating not to have access to my GSI, especially because of an upcoming big project,” she said. “But I also sympathize and don’t hold them accountable.”

Contact Jeff Landa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JeffLanda.