RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Thousands of unionized service and patient technical- care workers walked picket lines at University of California facilities across the state today, including UC Riverside, amid a lengthy labor dispute.
The walkout was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents roughly 25,000 workers at UC campuses across the state, including security guards, groundskeepers, cooks, truck drivers, nurse aids, respiratory therapists and radiology technologists.
The union has been embroiled in contract talks with the UC system for more two years. The union has held a series of similar one-day job actions, most recently in April, accusing the university of unfair labor practices and illegal outsourcing of jobs.
Union officials contend the UC has been outsourcing jobs to ``low-wage contractors, while evading its legal disclosure and bargaining obligations.'' The union claims the UC has awarded such contracts without adhering to the university's own competitive bidding policies.
The university, meanwhile, has accused the union of making unreasonable salary demands and staging unjustified walkouts in hopes of extracting bargaining concessions. In a statement, UC officials said AFSCME is the only remaining university union working without a contract. Seven other unions have reached labor agreements with the UC while the AFSCME negotiations have been continuing.
UC officials said the AFSCME union is demanding raises that are more than double those given to other employees. They also took issue with the union's allegations regarding outsourcing of jobs.
``The university's agreements with AFSCME already protect employees from displacement due to contracting,'' according to the UC. ``Furthermore, no employee can be terminated as a result of a sub-contracting decision.''
University officials called the strike ``unfortunate, as the university has presented a dozen comprehensive proposals throughout 40 days of bargaining sessions.'' University officials said in April that the union rejected the UC's latest contract offer without ever presenting it to union members.
The labor dispute recently forced a planned December debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls off the UCLA campus. The union reached out to the candidates and asked them to honor a boycott of UC facilities. The debate will instead be held at Loyola Marymount University.