Members of the UC American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299 labor union gathered at the entrance of Sproul Plaza on Wednesday to strike in response to contract negotiations and the UC system’s alleged interference with workers’ rights.
Service and patient care workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299 filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board on March 25. This charge was filed in response to incidents including the UC system’s failing to prevent or denounce the physical assault by a UC Davis manager toward workers and allied students protesting UC job outsourcing, engaging in “intimidation tactics” and allegedly spreading false rumors about the benefits of dropping union membership, according to an AFSCME press release.
“What today was about was something much more fundamental than wages or benefits,” said AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson John de los Angeles. “It’s about whether workers have the right to raise concerns about outsourcing, income inequality and more without being retaliated against.”
Members of the University Professional and Technical Employees union rallied in solidarity with AFSCME. By 12:15 a.m., about 80 strikers were chanting, “No contract, no peace” and carrying signs that read, “On strike for unfair labor practice.” Strikers took their rally down Telegraph Avenue as well, and about 40 people were still striking on Sproul Plaza at 2:30 p.m.
Striker and Cal Dining senior food service employee Bulmaro Arciga said the lack of education that UC employees receive on unions is an issue. Arciga noted that many new hires must rely on older members like him to learn about how they are protected, saying, “You can strike, you can be out here with us.”
AFSCME has been fighting for a fair contract for two years, rejecting the university’s last contract proposal Monday. According to UC spokesperson Claire Doan, the UC system already pays AFSCME patient care and service workers competitively, with wages at or above market rates, and also provides “excellent” health insurance and retirement benefits.
According to Doan, AFSCME leaders are requesting an 8 percent annual wage increase and a raise that is almost triple the raises that other UC employees receive. Doan said in an email that the university is focused on reaching an agreement and that union leaders have rejected multiple contract proposals that the UC system has offered without allowing a member vote or providing any “substantive” counteroffers since 2017.
“UC believes that AFSCME’s labor practice charge is nothing more than a blatant attempt to justify yet another strike,” Doan said in an email. “Union leaders will try — and again fail — to extract bargaining concession from the university through economic pressure, at the continued expense of patients, students and communities statewide.”
Head pantry employee at Clark Kerr Campus Lori Jeung-Martinez commented on the importance of being united with other unions, saying, “We’ve been without, and they’ve been without.”
Jeung-Martinez added that any new contract should include the current benefits that cover employees’ families.
“(The UC system) gave us a couple of offers, but it’s not enough to live on,” Arciga said. “We just want a fair contract, and we’ll stop striking and go to work. We love our jobs. Under those circumstances though, we feel that we deserve better.”