The union representing the university’s 13,000 patient care workers called a strike authorization vote Tuesday, alleging that the university has been bargaining in bad faith.
The March 12 to 13 vote, if successful, would allow the union to call its second unfair labor practice strike since it began negotiating with the university more than a year ago. The workers went on strike in November after alleging that they had been intimidated during a May strike.
On Tuesday, the union also filed an amendment to an existing unfair labor practice charge against the university, alleging that the university bargained in bad faith by introducing a new contract proposal in December.
The union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299, represents both the patient care workers and the university’s service workers, who reached a separate preliminary contract agreement last week.
“We’ve had bad-faith negotiations with the UC that have been going on for nearly a year,” said union spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. “This is part of a pattern.”
The contract proposal would allow the university to send workers home when there is a decrease in workload, so long as it first tries alternatives such as offering the chance for workers to take time off or take on other assignments, according to documents attached to the filed amendment.
Stenhouse said the section would give the university the power to send any number of patient care workers home without pay.
The university declined to comment on the proposal.
“I don’t think I, nor frankly anyone else outside of the bargaining table, can speak to ongoing negotiation specifics,” said university spokesperson Dianne Klein.
Last week, the university and service workers avoided a five-day strike by reaching a preliminary contract agreement, which has yet to be ratified by the service workers.
The university predicts a strike would cost about $10 million each day of its duration, Klein said.
“AFSCME leadership has called a strike authorization vote while bargaining continues, which UC is doing in good faith,” Klein said. “Today’s call for a strike is an example of AFSCME’s unnecessarily destructive and confrontational approach.”
Unions typically file charges like these to try to affect the employer’s public image and also provide a layer of safety for themselves during a strike, according to David Rosenfeld, a lecturer specializing in labor relations at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
The unfair labor practice charges will be reviewed by the California Public Employment Relations Board, although it is not clear when the board will issue a response.