AFSCME Local 3299 announces it will vote on whether to strike

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Zahira Chaudhry/File

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The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299 — the UC system’s largest employee union — announced at a UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday that it will hold a vote in October to decide if it will go on strike for the second time this year.

The primary concern of the union is the UC ‘s practice of using independent contracting companies to outsource labor. According to a press release from AFSCME, contracted workers at independent companies are often paid low wages and receive few benefits.

In May of this year, the service unit of AFSCME Local 3299 organized a three-day strike to protest a forced contract settlement with the UC, which continued the practice of outsourcing jobs. The UC’s final settlement offer to AFSCME, released Aug. 29, included wage increases, but according to John de los Angeles, AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson, the university has refused to acknowledge the issue of outsourcing and its impacts on laborers.

“The university has failed to recognize the primary concern of workers — that’s outsourcing,” said de los Angeles. “What good are the proposals that the university is offering to these workers if their jobs are outsourced tomorrow?”

The patient care technical unit will vote on whether to strike Oct. 9 and 10, and the service unit will vote on whether to strike in solidarity. While de los Angeles said he cannot speak to the likelihood of a strike, he said the patient care unit appears to be heading in the same direction that the service unit did last May.

“UC is disappointed that AFSCME leadership has indicated they will ask their members to vote on whether to strike instead of on our offer,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Danielle Smith in an email. “AFSCME leadership is requesting a wage increase that is double what other unions have agreed to – and what was given to non-represented employees.”

According to research conducted by AFSCME Local 3299, outsourcing practices drive income, gender and racial inequality within the UC system. Workers contend that outsourcing jobs destroys career paths for people of color, “trapping them into low-wage positions,” the press release said.  

The union’s research also stated that at UC Berkeley, about 96 percent of outsourced workers are people of color, and 33 percent more Black workers are in the service contractor workforce than are directly hired by UC Berkeley.

“UC’s employment data shows that women are getting paid far less to start than men and that Black workers are vanishing,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in a press release. “It’s because the University has stopped investing in career ladders and outsourced good middle-class jobs to low-wage contract companies that pay workers dirt.”

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.