A University of California service and patient-care workers’ union has alleged that the UC system illegally threatened and intimidated its health care workers during a May strike, according to a formal complaint filed Sept. 12.
The complaint, issued by the union AFSCME 3299, comes after a union strike against understaffing and pension reform that took place over two days in May. It alleges that UC employees took action against the union’s represented employees before and during the strike.
The union represents more than 12,500 UC patient-care employees.
In the complaint, the union alleges that UC employees interfered with the union members’ collective bargaining rights by questioning employees’ participation in the strike, marking absences as unauthorized, threatening disciplinary action and discriminating against strike participants.
“The idea that UC now is attacking the rights of workers and going out of their way to intimidate those who seek to speak up in an effort to protect their patients is stunning beyond words,” said Todd Stenhouse, a spokesperson for the union.
The university denied allegations that it used coercive measures against patient-care workers involved in the strike.
“The university takes these AFSCME allegations very seriously and strongly disagrees with the union’s claim that we threatened or intimidated employees during the strike,” said Dianne Klein, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, in an email.
Prior to the strike, the university sought a restraining order against the union to prevent a strike and the resulting risks to members of the public seeking health care.
“There was a hearing, and PERB found that our workers have these fundamental rights to strike,” Stenhouse said about the restraining order. “I suspect the same will hold true in this case.”
Stenhouse said the union is seeking a fair contract for its members and worries that the UC system has misguided priorities. In particular, Stenhouse was concerned about the university’s recent announcement that it is leasing housing at $9,950 a month for incoming UC president Janet Napolitano.
“We’re looking for decent wages that would allow our workers to pay their mortgage or to send their kids to school,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299. “If we could afford to send our kids to the UC, that would be great.”
There will be a settlement conference to see whether the case can be resolved without a hearing, Klein said. If no settlement agreement is reached, there will be an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge.
The UC Regents, who are the respondents named in the complaint, have 20 calendar days from Sept. 12 to file an answer.