Union to strike against ‘tone-deaf’ forced UC contract settlement

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Updated 5/7/18: This article has been updated to reflect information from a statement by the UC.

The UC’s largest employee union — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 — will be going on strike from Monday until Wednesday to protest a forced contract settlement as well as unequal treatment of women and people of color employed by the university.

AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson John de los Angeles called the strike a reaction to the UC’s decision on April 20 to impose union contract terms after a year of negotiation and a lack of agreement between the two groups. The contract terms would delay retirement by five years, continue outsourcing jobs and allow the university system to raise health care premiums.

“UC’s latest offer is completely tone-deaf to these issues,” de los Angeles said. “Workers really have no other power than to strike.”

In a press release, AFSCME referenced research published in April that identified racial, gender and income disparities among UC employees. The research concluded that, between 2005 and 2015, the share of the total payroll cost for UC’s top 10 percent of wage earners grew from 22 percent to 31 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent dropped from 24 percent to 22 percent.

Additionally, the research states that Latinx workers earn starting wages 21 percent lower than those of white workers on average and that Black employees earn 20 percent less than their white counterparts.

The UC’s final settlement offer included a 3 percent wage increase for all service workers each year for the next four years, a limit on potential health insurance premium increases and a lump-sum payment of $750 for every eligible employee once the contract was ratified, according to a statement from the UC. The statement also said AFSCME leaders rejected the offer without conducting a vote among union members.

In an email, UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Stephanie Beechem said the university “strongly disagrees” with AFSCME’s decision to strike. Though the university has offered a four-year 3 percent annual wage increase, AFSCME has requested a 6 percent annual wage increase over three years, according to Beechem.

Service employees are compensated “at or above the market in some cases,” according to Beechem, who added that because raises have been stalled for more than a year because of negotiations, the university has decided to increase AFSCME’s employee wages by 2 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

“UC is doing everything in its power to limit the strike’s impact on our campuses and medical centers, while working hard to ensure patients and students receive the services they deserve,” Beechem said in an email.

Those on strike in Berkeley will congregate for a rally at 2495 Bancroft Way at about 12 p.m. Monday. City officials such as Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Cheryl Davila are expected to join the rally, according to de los Angeles.

Some campus services may be affected by the strike — however, Felix Deleon, associate director of custodial, grounds, zero waste, fire mitigation and environmental services, said in an email that the department will be providing full services to areas that have been designated as open 24/7 for students to study.

De los Angeles also stated that income disparities among UC service workers are “driven” by the university’s outsourcing of jobs to low-wage contractors.

“If UC is really, truly concerned, they should invite us back to the table to take some steps to close these gaps,” de los Angeles said.

De los Angeles added that the union is very concerned with public health and safety and will make sure that the strike does not interfere with public health services.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the focus for campus is ensuring that operations continue to run as smoothly as possible.

“We are hopeful that university and the unions are able to reach an agreement soon,” Gilmore said in an email.

Contact Cade Johnson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.