In May, thousands of workers walked out in a statewide strike against University of California campuses and medical centers over outsourcing. This morning, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 is back on the picket lines again with six new unfair labor practice (ULP) charges alleging that union jobs are still being illegally displaced.
At UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, the university is accused of having outsourced laundry services in secret, expanding the scope of that contract since and having requested proposals for custodial and security guard work without notifying the union.
“The UC has to stop the outsourcing that they’re doing,” says Mauricio Villaseñor, a senior custodian at UCI Medical Center. “They’re putting all of our jobs at risk.”
Between fighting for a new contract and continued ULP filings, the union has gone out on strike six times in the past two-and-a-half years. The latest walkout, called by AFSCME 3299’s ULP committee on November 1, seeks to draw greater attention to the latest slew of charges. At UC Irvine Medical Center, the linen department is the newest to be affected since the strike in May.
“They are in charge of making sure our patients have clean bedding,” says Monica De Leon, unit secretary in UCI Medical Center’s labor and delivery department and vice president of AFSCME 3299’s patient care technical unit. “Recently, that work has been outsourced to another company. There’s always a patient safety issue when you have a revolving door of employees coming in that have not been trained the way we’ve been trained. ”
A state audit in 2017 found that the university hadn’t been following its own policies with regard to justifying the displacement of union workers with outsourced labor. On average, contracted workers were found to have made almost $4 dollars less per hour than the union counterparts they work side-by-side with. Last month, the university reported to state legislators that its spending on outsourced labor has increased 52 percent since 2016.
“This strike is not only about the continued outsourcing but the fact that UC is secretly doing all these contract without notifying AFSMCE,” De Leon adds. “It’s being done on purpose with the intention to bring in outsourced work that is replacing our bargaining members.”
With regards to the latest ULP charges, the university is currently reviewing them but offers that nothing, so far, has been found showing a violation of state law or any inappropriate actions having been taken.
“Despite union concerns about contracting, the number of AFSCME-represented employees has actually grown by double digits in the past five years,” says Andrew Gordon, UC spokesman. “UC’s contracts with AFSCME protect employees from displacement due to contracting, and no employee can be terminated as a result of a subcontracting decision. Furthermore, the UC Board of Regents is considering a system- wide policy that mirrors the State’s contracting requirements—and in some instances, exceeds them.”
The statewide strike stretches all the way from UC San Francisco to UC San Diego. In Orange, workers donning green AFSCME shirts will be joined by community organizations and other unions in solidarity from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a big rally at noon. State Senator Connie Leyva (SD 20) is expected to join their cause.
“We’re going to do what it takes,” says Villaseñor. “We break our backs every single day to make sure that the university runs, whether it’s patient care or service. Everybody is ready to fight for what they deserve.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!