UC healthcare workers go on strike
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In protest of unfair employment terms, over 15,000 UC patient care workers and 24,000 other union members went on strike from 4:00 am on October 23rd to 3:59 am on October 26th, reports the LA Times. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME 3299) has been negotiating with the UC system for almost two years about wages and equal employment, both sides headstrong in their desires and refusing to budge in their demands. The strike was organized in response to UC announcing its new employment terms at the beginning of October, with its primary goal of showing complete unity among the thousands of UC healthcare employees in opposition to the terms.
AFSCME began their bargaining with UC over 20 months ago, hoping to provide wage and benefit increases, as well as job security and safe staffing (appropriate nurse to patient ratios) for its patient care workers. These include nurse aids, pharmacy technicians, CT technologists, and many others with professions in the medical field that work on UC campuses, in UC medical centers, or at various UC labs and clinics. The union specifically asked for 6% annual raise, plus additional payments over four years, according to the LA Times. UC, however, is only offering 3% with a one-time payment of $750 after the ratification of a contract, and, in the eyes of AFSCME, has simultaneously “imposed its own terms” of healthcare premium increases, flattened wages, and continually outsourced of jobs that should be going to union workers. UC countered this by referring to its record of the number of union-represented workers hired and their pay increases, as both have seen increases over the last 5 years. Additionally, according to UC spokeswoman Claire Doan, UC spending on outside contracting has remained relatively level over the last 2 years. Still, AFSCME has remained steadfast in its fight for equality, and organized its second strike this year as a result.
According to AFSCME, the union has the legal right to strike under the law, so long as no major disruptions are caused. UC was thus given 10 days notice to ensure its 5 medical centers would be adequately staffed and able to remain open, and with that roughly 39,000 workers assembled themselves at the 10 university campuses and 5 medical centers. Places such as UCLA and UCD saw many of their healthcare employees gathered in front of their medical centers, while places like UCSB saw many protesters all around campus. In fact, according to KEYT News, the morning the strike started, there were already over 3 dozen strikers with signs seen around UCSB campus.
Leaders of AFSCME believe they have won a great victory for the union, but UC leaders disagree. In fact, according to Doan, this strike was “no more effective” than the previously arranged one in May (a strike held for the same reasons). “The way to a deal is at the negotiating table, not on the picket lines,” says Doan. An official impasse has since been declared in the negotiations between UC and AFSCME 3299, leaving both sides waiting for the other to make the next move.