UC employees strike for increased wages, pension security

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More than 100 UC employees marched on Upper Sproul Plaza on Wednesday to demand increased wages and pension security from the UC system.

The strike was hosted by the union University Professional and Technical Employees, or UPTE, but other union members joined the march in solidarity, including UPTE Healthcare Professionals and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME. Some protesters carried signs that said, “UC for the many not for the few” and “Standing together for a better UC.”

“We are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of UPTE because, as well as them, we don’t have a contract,” said Maricruz Manzanarez, an AFSCME Local 3299 representative.

This strike comes after several negotiations between UPTE and the university, which began in May 2017. After 17 meetings, the university offered UPTE members a final deal in which pensions were cut and the wage increase was half of that offered to California Nurses Association members, according to a UPTE press release.

“We reached a state of impasse, and at that point, we can no longer find bargaining useful at the table,” said Tobirus Newby, a clinical social worker at the University Health Services who was a part of contract negotiations for UPTE.

According to Newby, UPTE wants the university to guarantee a 5.5 percent increase in wages per year, a secure pension and a promise that the university will not increase health care costs. Newby said they also want equity in wages, not only with other workers at UC Berkeley but also across campuses, since there is a wage disparity for the same job titles across UC campuses.

UC spokesperson Claire Doan said in an email that the university agreed to offer UPTE an annual wage increase of 3 percent to every employee, whether they are represented by the union or not.

“If UPTE and AFSCME leaders had channeled as much effort into negotiations as they do into organized theatrics, we’d have a deal by now,” Doan said in an email. “Three disruptive strikes in less than one year come at a cost to everyone — patients, students and UC communities.”

The strike, which started about 4 a.m. and included more than 10,000 UPTE members statewide, according to a UPTE press release, continued into the afternoon with protestors shaking green bells and playing hand-held drums.

Protesters also chanted phrases such as “UC, UC, you can’t hide, we can see your green side” and “We are UC, we run UC.”

“It is not our desire to negatively impact students, staff or faculty, but it is our desire to show that we are vital workers here,” Newby said. “We are calling for the university to be in (a) good relationship with us and to honor all of the work and sacrifices we make for the good of the whole.”

Contact Aishwarya Kaimal at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Aishwarya_R_K‏.