Unions representing more than 35,000 workers are going on a systemwide one-day strike May 16 to protest alleged violations of worker rights surrounding labor outsourcing practices by the University of California. According to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299 spokesperson John de los Angeles, the strike has been “a long time coming.”
The strike was organized by AFSCME Local 3299 as well as University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119, and it will affect the UC system’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.
The strike is a response to three Unfair Labor Practice charges AFSCME Local 3299 filed in April alleging that the UC system is taking part in negotiations to replace its employees with low-wage workers contracted by outsourcing companies, de los Angeles said.
“The university has begun to seek out or enter into agreements that will allow the university to further outsource work that should be performed by its in-house employees,” de los Angeles said. “And in doing so, they have bypassed its workers at every turn.”
According to de los Angeles, the UC system has failed to comply with California law because it denied workers the opportunity to meet and discuss how its outsourcing measures could impact them.
UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan said in a statement that the UC is confident its service-contract practices align with university policy, collective bargaining agreements and state law.
Doan added that the UC cannot terminate AFSCME-represented employees who are displaced as a result of an outsourced subcontracting decision. According to de los Angeles, however, workers’ jobs could still be in jeopardy.
De los Angeles described the situation as a “catch-22” in which workers may not be fired by the UC but could have to choose between being reassigned to positions that may not make use of their skill sets and working for outsourced contract companies, at which they might receive lower pay and fewer benefits.
Doan said in her statement that AFSCME Local 3299’s “baseless accusations” and “boycott of commencement speakers” are evidence that union leaders are “going to desperate lengths for attention.”
AFSCME Local 3299 recently called for graduation speakers to boycott their UC speaking engagements amid the ongoing labor disputes over outsourcing. During an AFSCME Local 3299 strike in May 2018, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, chose to withdraw as UC Berkeley’s general commencement speaker in response to a similar request from AFSCME Local 3299 to boycott UC speaking engagements.
“We hope that (the strike) will raise attention and that the university will begin to acknowledge the well-founded concerns that university workers have raised over outsourcing for years,” de los Angeles said.