UC workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299 hold 5th strike in past year

UC workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299 hold 5th strike in past year

Photo Credits: KATHLEEN GROH / COURTESY

12 arrested at board of regents meeting

Just weeks after their last state-wide strike, AFSCME 3299 partnered with University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA 9119) to protest unfair labor practices and outsourcing jobs. Workers formed picket lines at all 10 UC campuses and five medical centers on May 16.

This is the fifth strike held in the last 12 months, following the last walk-out that took place on April 10 over alleged worker intimidation and formal complaints filed against the UC with the Public Employment Labor Relations Board.

These strikes have garnered national attention. Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro showed solidarity with protestors at their San Francisco picket line. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also sent out text message reminders to supporters in California located near UC centers and campuses to join the fight and protect union jobs.

Protesters organized at the UC Regents meeting hosted at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to bring their concerns to the regents. Rudy Gonzalez, the president of the San Francisco Labor Council, addressed the regents at that meeting.

“I have to tell you the 130 unions and 100,000 members in this city stand behind AFSCME 3299,” Gonzalez said. “When we talk about outsourcing, we’re talking about surrendering. We’re talking about giving up. When agencies and enterprises outsource, it’s really a race to the bottom. You’re taking good middle class, union jobs, in this case, and outsourcing them to vulnerable workers who are being paid barely minimum wage. In fact, some of your internal audits show some of these workers haven’t even achieved minimum wage.”

12 protestors attending the UC Regents meeting were arrested after refusing to leave the meeting room following public discussion.

According to UPTE-CWA 9119’s website, part of the motivation to strike emerged from the unions’ belief that the UC is not bargaining in good faith and respecting the rights of union employees.

Union workers protested the UC’s decision to outsource jobs that, according to union representatives, should go to union employees.

One point of workers’ concerns involve UC Davis’ plans for a new rehabilitation hospital that will work with a private company, Kindred Healthcare, rather than expanding opportunities for current patient care workers. According to union leaders, this plan will divert about $684 million toward for-profit companies rather than union employees.

UC representatives claim that union leaders are spreading false information about outsourcing jobs. Claire Doan, the executive director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations for the University of California Office of the President, commented on union leaders’ claims.

“AFSCME’s real reason for continual strike activity is to gain leverage in negotiations, at which they have failed time and time again,” Doan said via email. “In fact, UC’s agreements with AFSCME explicitly bar the university from contracting out solely to save wages and benefits. Furthermore, UC cannot terminate an employee due to a sub-contracting decision.”

While the justification behind outsourcing is not specifically mentioned, a 2017 California State Audit report showed evidence that the UC has engaged in outsourcing to minimize the need to hire more employees.

AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger addressed claims made by Doan while speaking at the Board of Regents meeting.

“On three occasions UC has failed to meet and confer with us, with your workers about decisions to outsource our work to low wage contractors, despite it being required to do so by law,” Lybarger said. “These latest charges highlight the scope of what is an increasingly radical privatization scheme at UC which is ultimately focused on one thing— paying its lowest wage workers even less. Despite all this, UC leadership continues to deny legitimacy of workers’ concerns over outsourcing as you continue to insist that this is about leverage over wages and benefits. But I’ve got to ask you — what good are wages and benefits when UC will outsource these jobs tomorrow?”

Written by: Ally Russell — campus@theaggie.org