Thousands of University of California Workers Begin 3-Day Strike

UC workers go on strike

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Thousands of University of California hospital patient care technical workers began a three-day strike today amid a labor dispute focused salary issues and demands by the employees' union for an end to the outsourcing of jobs.

More than 15,000 AFSCME Local 3299 workers were expected to take part in the strike at UC medical centers across the state, with more than 9,000 AFSCME service workers and roughly 15,000 UPTE-CWA technical workers joining them in solidarity.

“Through its actions, the University of California is making income, racial and gender inequality at UC worse,” said Monica De Leon, vice president of AFSCME Local 3299's Patient Care Technical Unit. “They're destroying what were once career pathways to the middle class for our state's diverse population and are damaging the quality of service that we provide to students, patients and everyday Californians.”

AFSCME officials claim they have sought to address the outsourcing issues during labor negotiations, but the university decided last month to impose employment terms on the workers, prompting the union to warn that the move would risk more outsourcing while flattening wages, raising healthcare premiums and lifting the retirement age.

“We've bargained in good faith for over a year to address outsourcing at UC because it creates unequal and insecure circumstances that workers must struggle with every day,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “Instead of joining us in an effort to arrest these alarming trends, UC has insisted on deepening them -- leaving workers no option but to strike.”

The strike comes after more than 53,000 service workers from the university staged a three-day strike in May.

In addition to the outsourcing issue, the two sides are also far apart on salaries. UC officials said the labor strife was due to workers making too high of a demand for wage increases.

“ASCME leaders' demand of an 8 percent annual wage increase -- nearly triple what other UC employees have received -- is unrealistic and unreasonable. UC cannot justify to taxpayers or the rest of the university workforce this excessive wage increase, especially for a group already earning at or above market rates,” according to a statement from the university. “Now union leaders are throwing a tantrum for the second time in five months, putting their agenda above the needs of patients, students and the public. It is unfortunate that AFSCME leaders still have yet to glean a simple lesson from their May demonstration: their combative stance is harmful and ineffective.”

The UC is offering the union a 3 percent raise along with a one-time payment once a contract is approved by union members.

In Los Angeles, workers were picketing outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“AFSCME, the University, the Public Employment Relations Board and the Superior Court were all involved in determining a limited number of employees who should continue to work during a strike,” AFSCME 3299 Executive Director Liz Perlman said. “AFSCME not only intends to honor that agreement, but has additionally assembled a Patient Protection Task Force that's ready to respond if the university's contingency plans were to fail.”

Photos: Getty Images

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