The first day of a planned two-day union strike across the University of California’s medical centers drew out picket lines of patient care and service workers across the UC.
About 200 workers with signs and whistles picketed outside of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for hours on Tuesday. The workers in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 union planned the strike, which began at 4 a.m. Tuesday, to protest stalled contract negotiations between the union and the University.
The negotiations began last June and have reached a stalemate since December.
The union is protesting for higher pay and better benefits, while arguing that the UC medical centers are understaffed and UC executives are overpaid. In a press release from the UC last week, however, officials stated that the University is offering union members wage increases of 3.5 percent per year for four years. UC officials say the union will not agree to pension proposals from the University.
Some of the workers said they had been protesting outside of the medical center since the early hours of the morning.
Patrick Hale, a radiologic technologist at the UCLA Medical Center who was at the protest on Tuesday, said potential changes would not affect him directly.
Still, he abstained from work on Tuesday to strike in support of his co-workers.
“The worst consequence of some of the UC decisions is employee morale,” Hale said. “It just doesn’t create a good environment.”
Workers walked up and down Westwood Boulevard during the protest, listening to speakers with megaphones and chanting phrases like “Treat your workers right.” A row of tables lined the sidewalk, where workers could sign in with the union and pick up shirts and picket signs.
Taleaha Owens, a hospital assistant at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said this is the second strike she has taken part in over the past eight years.
“I really hope we don’t have to keep doing this,” said Owens, who did not go to work Tuesday. “They’re driving out the people who really like being here.”
Owens added that she lives more than 100 miles away in Victorville, Calif., but works at UCLA because she likes helping the patients.
“If they keep cutting our benefits, it’s not going to make sense for me to come over here every day.” she said.
UC officials estimated they would need to spend about $20 million to bring in replacement workers.
Surgeries at the five UC medical centers, as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments, have been postponed during the strike. UCLA Housing Services posted a revised dining schedule on Monday, indicating a few minor changes in the Hill’s dining schedule, like the closure of the Hedrick’s Test Kitchen, in anticipation of the strike.
Suzanne Seplow, executive director of the Office of Residential Life, said on Monday that UCLA Housing made the changes in case of a sympathy strike by Hill workers. Seplow was not available Tuesday for further comment.
The strike is set to continue until 4 a.m. on Thursday.
Contributing reports by Ariana Ricarte, Bruin reporter.