Editorial Board supports AFSCME strike
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 — the University of California’s largest employee union — has once again voted to authorize a strike after simple requests for healthcare benefits and an increase in wages were repeatedly denied. The latest strike is planned on UC campuses for Oct. 23 to 25.
AFSCME 3299, which represents over 25,000 employees across the 10 UC campuses, protested last February. Workers picketed at the ARC and held signs that read: “UC Regents Survive on MY SALARY.” AFSCME went on strike May 7 to 9, authorized by a majority vote of 97 percent, to get its point across. The UC registered nurses, among several other healthcare professionals, also went on strike in solidarity with the AFSCME workers. After three long days of picketing, the UC’s last-and-best offer was a “3 percent across-the-board wages increase and a pro-rated, lump sum payment of $750,” according to an article by The Sacramento Bee. Unsatisfied, AFSCME 3299 declined the offer.
The matter is simply that the UC isn’t giving workers the proper benefits and salaries needed to make a living and provide for their families. Employees are forced to do a significant amount of physical labor just to barely scrape by.
The UC Office of the President, however, has fired back at AFSCME 3299, arguing that AFSCME’s only concern is money. And since many hospital and medical center workers are AFSCME members, UCOP has argued that a strike will unfairly hurt patients. This has been an ongoing dispute for many years and has become even more prominent since the May strike. In a 2013 statement released by UCOP during the last round of bargaining, AFSCME was “urged to show more flexibility, as UC has, and return to the bargaining table.”
Ironically, the UC has not been very flexible in its workers’ benefits. Its last offer was 3 percent annual raise, which can barely keep up with the rising costs of living. Claire Doan, a UC spokesperson, said that workers already receive good health care benefits and wages. Furthermore, she stated that the UC could not meet the demands of a 6 percent annual raise and that all AFSCME has done is “hurt care for our patients and our students,” according to an NPR news release.
Rather than giving AFSCME workers the 6 percent increase that they undoubtedly deserve, the UC lowered its final 3 percent offer, giving AFSCME only a 2 percent annual increase. Not only was this a slap in the face for AFSCME, it was also a blatant attempt on the UC’s part to maintain power and will AFSCME workers to continue to protest for their rights.
In addition, AFSCME has raised many concerns on outsourcing and pay disparities for women and people of color within the UC. Workloads have increased for remaining workers after others are injured, retire or quit. Pay has also been reduced while health care premiums and retirement ages have increased. Davena Woods, a senior custodian at UCLA and a member of the union’s bargaining team, has been one of thousands to fall victim to the unjust worker treatment, as she lives “paycheck to paycheck” and is “tired of just surviving,” according to a Q&A released by California Magazine.
The Editorial Board is in solidarity with AFSCME and all those who have protested to obtain the wages and benefits they deserve. The UC cannot function without its workers and thus its workers’ demands must be met.
Written by: The Editorial Board