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Monday, April 15, 2024

AFSCME 3299 strike: UC problems, we see answers

With the recent 24-hour strike held by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299, the largest union in the University of California (UC), the tension between the UC system and some of its employees has come to a head. AFSCME 3299, which includes custodians, cooks, licensed vocational nurses and many other workers who make up the backbone of the UC system, is arguing for more competitive wages to account for the increase in cost of living.

Both sides had been bargaining to no real avail for quite a while. With neither side willing to budge, the strike on Nov. 20 was an expression of frustration by the union regarding the lack of progress.

The UC responded by making public statements regarding the negative effects of the strike including putting patients at risk due to a labor dispute.

Despite this blistering indictment of the AFSCME 3299 strike, an important question must be asked. What could the UC system have done to have avoided this strike?

For one, the UC system could have worked closer with AFSCME 3299 to meet its demands. Instead, the UC has shown a disinterest regarding the negotiation of wage increases for the workers in AFSCME 3299, believing that the wages currently offered are “competitive” with the market.

But what is “competitive” about wages that are on average 25 percent less than those wages offered to workers in California community colleges or other hospitals?

The answer: nothing.

Instead of simply blaming the union for doing what it was created to do — protecting its workers — the UC leaders should actively look to help solve this problem. The strike and all of the problems associated with it could have been easily avoided had the UC system simply sat down and bargained fairly with the workers.

As a public institution whose primary purpose is to provide students with the education needed to pursue future endeavors, the UC system should also seek to provide its workers with fair pay and the capability of providing a decent living for their families.


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