Union strike continues into day 2, gathers crowd of more than 100

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Chants arose from the picket circle on Sproul Plaza on Tuesday morning, heard by students who walked to their 8 a.m. finals.

Day two of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 union’s UC-wide strike marked the gathering of more than 100 people protesting against the UC for forcing contract terms that AFSCME had rejected. Workers from University Professional and Technical Employees, or UPTE, and the California Nurses Association, or CNA, joined in a sympathy strike.

On April 20, the university announced that it would impose a contract settlement despite AFSCME’s dissatisfaction with the terms. The proposed contract would delay retirement by five years, allow the university to raise health care premiums and give workers an annual 3 percent wage increase over the next four years. AFSCME, however, requested a 6 percent annual wage increase over three years.

Manuella Stephney, a Tang Center medical assistant, said the majority of her medical assistant and nurse co-workers joined her at the strike. She clarified that the “fight” is not against management or supervisors but against the UC.

“We run the system. We run the UC. We keep it running — the employees and the students,” Stephney said. “(The UC) takes away our benefits, our rights … They want us to go backwards.”

Stephney added that AFSCME employees drive from “miles and miles” away to get to work, paying for transportation and “constantly rising” parking costs.

Picketers from AFSCME wore matching green shirts and held signs that read “Standing Together for a Better UC” and “Equality. Fairness. Respect.”

Steven White, an AFSCME Local 3299-represented senior custodian at University Village in Albany, stated that he and other strikers went to the Crossroads dining hall to organize and recruit members. White said he feels AFSCME strikers have made a “strong case,” and workers who have not joined in on the strike should join the effort.

“We stand together. We’re a family,” White said. “No contract, no peace. There is no negotiation lower than 6 (percent).”

AFSCME Local 3299 workers need higher pay to support their families, and they have already had to work without a contract for a year, according to White. To compensate, the UC has offered as part of its proposed contract a lump-sum payment of $750 if the contract is ratified.

The strike is scheduled to continue through Wednesday, but workers are adamant that the effort will continue until the UC agrees to their terms.

“It’s important for our future,” Stephney said of the strike. “Because if we don’t fight for our future, we won’t have one.”

Cade Johnson is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.