Workers in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 Union, or AFSCME Local 3299, organized a strike Wednesday to protest working conditions.
The union — which represents nearly 24,000 UC system employees — planned to establish picket lines at each UC system facility across the state beginning at 8 a.m., according to AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. Stenhouse added that the purpose of the strikes was to show the university’s alleged outsourcing of jobs and contracts previously awarded to employees in the UC system.
“It’s been no secret to anyone that outsourcing is a big concern — it deepens inequality, and it’s women and people of color who perform many of the jobs being outsourced right now,” Stenhouse alleged. “The idea behind the strike is to stand up to the UC’s actions, and show how their practices have affected members of our union.”
In the past, members of AFSCME Local 3299 have organized multiple strikes and also filed formal complaints against the UC system related to the alleged outsourcing of jobs to privately contracted companies, Stenhouse said. According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Andrew Gordon, however, UC system policies allegedly already protect AFSCME employees from the impacts of subcontracting.
The planned strike would be the sixth in the past two and a half years since negotiations between AFSCME Local 3299 and the university began, according to Gordon. As a consequence, Gordon added, AFSCME Local 3299 remains the only workers’ union in the UC system without a contract.
“The UC Board of Regents is considering a systemwide policy that mirrors the State’s contracting requirements—and in some instances, exceeds them,” Gordon said in an email. “The policy further underscores UC’s commitment to its employees and maintaining a strong in-house workforce.”
Some professors, including UC Berkeley English professors Eric Falci and Lyn Hejinian, have planned on canceling classes Wednesday because of the strikes. According to Hejinian, honoring the call to strike meant that classes would have to be canceled, and students’ coursework would be disrupted even further.
Hejinian, who is part of two workers’ unions in the UC system, added that the strike is meant to highlight the university’s alleged turn to privatization and increasing employment of private contractors. Workers employed by these private contractors, according to Hejinian, allegedly have fewer benefits and protections than represented UC system, and employees are allegedly paid less.
“In honoring the Nov. 13 AFSCME strike, I am honoring the struggle against privatization and the struggle for a public university, and I am honoring AFSCME for continuing that struggle, on behalf of its members and on behalf of the ordinary people of California,” Hejinian said in an email. “Privatization brings with it income inequities, a problem that is already with us on campus. In the context of a university, it also brings with it educational inequities.”