Following over a year of failed negotiations, University of California service and patient-care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 will stage a one-day, UC-wide strike on Wednesday. The union represents over 22,000 UC employees, and the strike is primed to be one of the largest in university history.
Joining AFSCME in a sympathy strike will be the grad students represented by UAW 2865, though nurses from the California Nurses Association, who earlier agreed to sympathy strike, came to a tentative contract agreement with the university last Saturday that includes a no-strike clause, meaning they'll be working Wednesday. The Associated Students of UC Irvine passed legislation in October to support the workers, though the legislation has no effect on administration.
According to the union, the strike–which was authorized at the beginning of November by a 96 percent yes vote–is in response to the UC's alleged intimidation of its workers during the earlier walkout in May over unsafe patient-care staffing levels. AFSCME has gone to the California Public Employees Relations Board with a complaint that details the intimidation, but a decision has not yet been rendered. The complaint details 39 instances of intimidation that run afoul of the Higher Education Employer-Employees Act.
“UC Administrators have engaged in a coordinated campaign of bullying, intimidation, and illegal threats in order to preserve a status quo that puts at risk not just workers, but the patients and students they serve,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in a statement released Sept. 17. “It's time for UC Executives to answer for their frontal assault on collective bargaining, and the growing pattern of mismanagement that is destroying this institution. No one is above the law.”
AFSCME employees have also been working under an unapproved contract since September, when UC administrators decided to stop negotiating with the union and impose their last offer, which included a pay freeze and higher pension and health-care contributions from the employees. In total, take home pay for AFSCME employees fell 1.5 percent after the decision. Before the pay cut, 98 percent of the patient-care and service employees were already eligible for public assistance, according to the union.
As it did during the May walkout, AFSCME has formed a Patient Protection Task Force and exempted several employees from the strike to address any emergency needs that prop up during the work stoppage.