UC community needs to stand in solidarity with university employees

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: Students, faculty and staff must join striking union workers to advocate for their rights in the coming weeks

A group of people protesting near Sather Gate
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

The UC system simply wouldn’t run without its thousands of employees. The individuals who work to provide medical, groundskeeping, administrative services and so much more deserve fair treatment. At the very least, they should be able to negotiate for fair treatment and livable wages without the fear of being replaced by contracted labor.

Instead, the UC’s largest employee union — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, or AFSCME 3299 — has filed three separate Unfair Labor Practice charges against the university. The charges are centered on allegations that the UC has outsourced jobs to contract workers. To protest the alleged unfair labor practices, AFSCME 3299 will hold a strikes on May 16 and May 20 — about two weeks after International Workers’ Day. And the students and faculty who depend on these employees need to stand with them in solidarity.

Last month, AFSCME 3299 alleged that the university is taking part in negotiations to replace its employees with low-wage workers contracted by outsourcing companies. These allegations have serious implications for the entire UC system. The administration must acknowledge the damage that outsourcing labor could cause its employees — and acknowledge that it has engaged in outsourcing practices in the past.

Outsourcing is deeply dismissive of the rights and value of full-time employees. It could undermine the increases in wages and benefits that UC worker unions have spent years fighting for and continue to demand today. And this practice can also be exploitative of contract workers, who have limited legal rights compared to hired employees, since they are not protected by minimum wage or overtime laws.

The UC system has responded to the allegations of outsourcing by saying that it is confident that its service-contract practices align with university policy, collective bargaining agreements and state law. But university policy is the bare minimum the UC system must adhere to, and the administration should go beyond this expectation to show its commitment to its employees.

The outsourcing of jobs by the UC administration would have impacts beyond those felt by unions. UC students, faculty and staff should ask themselves whether they want to be a part of a system that dismisses the needs of its employees.

AFSCME 3299 is not the only union with complaints against the system — University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119 has also alleged that the UC system is outsourcing the jobs of its members to private contractors. The two unions, representing more than 39,000 UC employees, will go on strike together in the coming weeks. This strike is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff members to stand in solidarity with the employees that sustain the university with their labor.

Show your support for these invaluable workers by joining the strikes. Don’t break the picket line — and do what you can to remind the university that it needs these employees.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.