LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Thousands of University of California service workers will conclude a three-day strike today with pickets and rallies scheduled at campuses and medical centers across the state, including at UCLA and UC Irvine Medical Center.
Members of Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will picket throughout the day, with rallies scheduled for noon.
Service workers began their walkout Monday, demanding higher pay and an increase in staffing levels. UC officials criticized the union for calling a strike and accused it of rejecting what it said was an offer of ``fair, multi- year wage increases and excellent medical and retirement benefits.''
In light of stalled contract negotiations, the university system imposed contract terms on the union last month for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The terms included 2 percent pay increases. The latest contract offer from the UC to the union included annual 3 percent raises over the next four years, according to the university.
The union rejected the move and responded by issuing a notice of a strike set to last until today.
``We've bargained in good faith for over a year to address the widening income, racial and gender disparities that front-line, low-wage workers at UC are living every day,'' AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. ``Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them -- leaving workers no option but to strike.''
UC officials issues a swift statement saying they ``strongly disagree with AFSCME's decision to strike, which will negatively impact patients, students and the UC community.''
The UC stated that its service workers -- including custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff -- are compensated at or above the market rate, ``and in some cases, by as much as 17 percent higher than comparable jobs.''
University officials said the union is demanding a 6 percent annual wage increase, ``which is twice what other UC employees have received.''
They said in addition to pay raises, their final offer included a lump- sum payment upon contract ratification, health benefits consistent with those of other workers and continuation of pension benefits for existing employees. New employees would be given a choice between a pension or 401(K)- style retirement plan.
The strike got off to a rocky start Monday at UCLA, where a motorist apparently got impatient and tried to drive through the picketers crossing a street. Witnesses said the man first got out of his SUV with a stick, threatening picketers, then got back in his car and tried to drive through the crowd.
Police said three people suffered minor injuries in the clash. The driver was taken into custody.