The University of California’s largest union announced Thursday it will hold a three-day strike in two weeks in response to a failure to reach a contract agreement with the University.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents service workers such as custodians, nurses and food service workers, provided the University a 10-day notice before the strike, which will take place from May 7 to 9. The union has been negotiating a multiyear contract with the UC for more than a year, and voted last week to hold a strike.
John de los Angeles, AFSCME’s communications director, said the strike will demonstrate the importance of the union workers’ roles within the UCLA community. The strike will involve more than 9,000 UC service workers, and 15,000 patient care technical workers will engage in a sympathy strike.
“I hope the UC administrators finally find out just how crucial patient and service workers are to the community,” he said.
UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem said in an email statement the upcoming strike will negatively impact patients and students within the UC community. She added the union’s demand of a 6 percent annual wage increase was twice what other UC employees have received.
“AFSCME service employees at UC – including custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff – are compensated at or above the market and in some cases, by as much as 17 percent higher than comparable jobs,” Beechem said.
Beechem said the UC offered the union a final settlement proposal that included a multiyear wage increase of 3 percent annually for four years, along with health and retirement benefits.
“They chose to reject it without conducting a vote among their members,” she said.
Because critical workers like MRI technicians and vocational nurses will be participating in the strike, de Los Angeles said AFSCME workers will be assembling a Patient Protection Task Force that will be prepared to respond to requests for emergency patient care assistance should the UC’s contingency plans for the strike fail.
De los Angeles said he hopes students will support and participate in the strike.
“Students … have the capacity to sit on a picket line all day, and many of our workers have multiple jobs and children that they cannot abandon to fight this fight,” he said. “Students will realize that the problem … is the executive bloat of the UC.”
He added he hopes the strike will force the UC to invite AFSCME back to the bargaining table with meaningful proposals. The UC increased the retirement age range for new employees last week because it said it had completed appropriate procedures following a bargaining impasse, such as a mediation and fact-finding process with the union.
“It’s the UC that just a week ago decided to impose employment terms on our workers without their permission,” de Los Angeles said. “Only the UC has the power to end this strike.”