The UC system’s largest employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299, went forward with the second day of its three-day strike for better contract terms.
The union is striking for wage increases, benefit protections and job security, among other demands. A UC statement provided by UC spokesperson Danielle Smith said AFSCME patient care and service workers are already compensated “at or above market rates,” and are given affordable health insurance and generous retirement benefits.
“UC hopes AFSCME leaders, given their wasted efforts, will now engage in productive, sensible negotiations, rather than blindly declare victory for a demonstration that moved them no closer to a better deal,” the statement said.
Drums were beating and banners were raised while picketers chanted, “If we don’t get no contract, you don’t get no peace.” The group of strikers grew to 150 people at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue by noon, forming a circle of picketers at one of the most heavily trafficked areas on campus.
Throughout the day, free tacos, tamales, coffee and water were served to striking union members to ameliorate the three days of pay those on strike are going without. Outside of The Golden Bear café, a coalition of student groups picketed to discourage patronage while workers participated in the strike.
“We don’t want to cause violence or anything like that, but (the strike) is about disrupting the flow of the day,” said Tobirus Newby, vice president of the University Professional and Technical Employees, CWA 9119, or UPTE-CWA 9119, executive board.
AFCSME Local 3299 was joined by UPTE-CWA 9119 — the UC’s union of technical and professional employees — and University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, the union for UC librarians.
According to David Eifler, a campus environmental design librarian, UC librarians are without a contract with the UC for the first time in 35 years, lifting a previous clause that barred employee strikes.
“We’re taking a sympathy strike with AFSCME because we realize how bad their conditions are, and at the same time, we’re trying to raise awareness of what librarian conditions are,” Eifler said.
For Pê Feijó, a second-year doctoral student in rhetoric, professors either canceled classes in solidarity with the strike or moved them off campus because of reduced infrastructural support. Feijó said he decided to join the picketers because of concerns over the university’s practice of “outsourcing” jobs, the primary reason for AFSCME’s 3-day strike.
According to The Golden Bear café employee and union member Cesar Dizano, years ago the UC system brought in temporary workers who did not require paid benefits, unlike normal contracted workers, at school-operated eateries. AFSCME Local 3299 was able to halt the practice, but the university is now returning to temporary labor, Dizano said.
Dizano, who has been working on campus for 13 years, alleged that he was not provided proper equipment while on the job. Dizano said he also deals with higher health care premiums, a cost that some are saying has caused overall income to decrease.
“As a worker, I’m unsure of where I’m going to end up in the next three to five years,” Dizano said. “Nobody should have to deal with these conditions — the uncertainty of not knowing what’s tomorrow, if I’m going to have food on the table.”
Union members will form picket lines each day of the strike from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Strikes are occurring on other UC campuses, such as UC Davis and UCLA.