Service and patient-care worker union announce 5-day strike

Related Posts

The university’s about 8,300 service workers announced Thursday that they intend to strike across the UC system from March 3 to 7. University patient-care workers, represented by the same union, announced they will strike in sympathy.

Both units, part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, voted with 96 percent approval last week to authorize their bargaining teams to call a strike.

The university is currently working on a legal challenge to the strike, which would be presented before the California Public Employment Relations Board, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

Service workers include custodians, groundskeepers and food-service staff across the UC campuses, medical centers and laboratories. Patient-care workers include surgical and X-ray technicians at the medical centers.

“We’re extremely disappointed that the union has chosen to call a strike even as negotiations continue,” Klein said. “We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A strike benefits nobody.”

However, the bargaining between the university and service workers has reached an impasse, according to both Klein and union spokesperson Todd Stenhouse.

Three issues remained unresolved: the issue of wages and service workers qualifying for public assistance, the issue of contracting out work to lower paid workers with less experience and the issue of safety and dealing with increasing injury rates, according to Stenhouse.

“The choice here is whether the UC is going to become McDonald’s or is going to honor its obligation as a world-class university,” Stenhouse said.

Klein said the university’s offer is still on the table, but it remains the university’s best offer.

“We have asked AFSCME leadership to bargain in good faith,” said Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president of human resources, in a press release Thursday. “Yet in announcing another strike even as the university prepares for our bargaining session next week, the union has again chosen conflict over compromise.”

Previously, Klein said calling a strike would cost the university enough money to put the offer in jeopardy.

The university expects the coming strike to cost $10 million a day, a total of $50 million, according to Klein. This estimate is based on AFSCME’s previous one- and two-day strikes in May and November of last year, which Klein said cost the university a total of $30 million.

“The distance that separates the university and the service unit is much less than the cost of a strike,” Stenhouse said. “The ball is in the university’s court.”

The wage offers of the university and union differ by between 3 percent and 4.5 percent in total over the contract’s four-year term.

During the strike vote, a number of individuals and organizations came out in support of the union’s position, including Student Regent Cinthia Flores and the Council of UC Faculty Associations.

As of Thursday, there are no scheduled bargaining sessions between the service unit and university before the strike begins.

Daniel Tutt covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @danielgtutt.