UC workers union protests over new contracts

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About 200 protesters gathered at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue on Monday afternoon in support of worker rights in the UC campuses and medical centers as part of a statewide demonstration.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, a union representing 22,000 service and patient workers at the UC campuses and medical centers, organized the event to protest a variety of issues, including cuts to current healthcare and pension benefits and a wage freeze.

Workers will begin to feel the effects of new UC policies beginning this month under a new system for pensions and healthcare.

This new system applies to nonunionized workers with under five years of service or anyone whose age is less than 50.

According to AFSCME lead organizer and UC Berkeley alumna Sarah Leadem, some of the most important worker proposals brought to the university will cost it the least.

“Some of our proposals won’t cost UC a dime but are all about student services and safe staffing and patient care — things like work load levels,” Leadem said. “We have one custodian cleaning an entire building right now.”

AFSCME had previously attempted to set up a meeting with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to further discuss contract negotiations and present him with a petition with over 400 signatures, according to a letter dated June 27.

UC Berkeley Labor Relations Director Debra Harrington accepted the petition and issued a response on Dirks’ behalf, explaining that he was away from campus at the time.

“Please be advised that Chancellor Dirks is supportive of the efforts to reach a fair and amicable resolution to the pending negotiations between the University of California and AFSCME Local 3299,” Harrington said in a follow-up email.

At the protest, UC workers, students and supportive labor unions gathered at the chancellor’s California Hall office to voice their upset over the recent developments.

“I am here today because my benefits and future are at stake,” said senior custodian Maricruz Manzanarez. “UC has offered us nothing and wants to take away what we have.”

Some UC Berkeley students also voiced their support for the workers.

“We need to understand that (workers) are an integral part of how we live, said UC Berkeley junior Spencer Pritchard. “Without them, this campus would not be functioning.”

The protests come amid ongoing contract negotiations between UC medical patient care workers and the university, including strikes in May.

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected]