Standing outside Murphy Hall, service workers wearing green shirts and carrying noisemakers and rattles chanted, “We are not afraid.”
University of California service employees held a systemwide strike Wednesday after their union claimed the UC had condoned the intimidation of workers participating in previous strikes.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest employee union, filed an Unfair Labor Practices charge against the UC on March 25 to the California Public Employment Relations Board. The charge listed 10 incidents during which UC administrators allegedly criticized or attempted to intimidate striking employees.
The charge included alleged incidents such as UC administrators providing food and gift baskets to nonstriking workers, police officers preventing strikers using bullhorns and a UC Davis superintendent physically assaulting picketing workers and threatening them with his car.
Melissa Lutz Blouin, a UC Davis spokesperson, said UC Davis campus police attempted to investigate the latter charge but were prevented because they said AFSCME refused to provide them an unedited video of the incident.
John de los Angeles, a spokesperson for AFSCME, said the union called the strike to call for the UC to respect the workers’ rights to protest for their demands.
“AFSCME is seeking from the University to refrain from (using intimidation tactics), and immediately correct the problem and actually even encourage the workers to be active with their rights,” he said.
Claire Doan, a spokesperson of the UC Office of the President, said in an email statement the UC believed AFSCME’s labor charge was a blatant attempt to justify another strike.
“For the fourth time in under a year, union leaders will try – and again fail – to extract bargaining concessions from the University through economic pressure,” she said.
This strike was the fourth held by AFSCME in the past year. The union called strikes in May and October 2018 to demand the UC raise workers’ wages and stop outsourcing. It also went on strike March 20 in solidarity with University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119, which represents about 14,000 research and technical workers in the UC.
Workers said they gathered at 6 a.m. to begin their march. They said they walked across campus and through the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center parking garage, stopping for a rally in front of Murphy Hall before returning to Bruin Plaza.
Speakers at the rally included student supporters, an AFSCME local 3299 executive board member and a representative from Sen. Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign. Harris announced in 2018 she would be boycotting UC Berkeley’s commencement to support AFSCME while it negotiated with the UC.
Alexia Hatun, a third-year history student and organizer for Student Labor Advocacy Project, said SLAP had joined the march and rally to support the workers and inform students about how poorly she thinks the UC treats its employees.
Gabriel Cortina, a third-year anthropology student and organizer with SLAP, said he had begun advocating for workers’ rights after working on campus alongside employees in conflict with the UC.
“For me it was someone who would work alongside with us,” he said. “Just hearing the struggles that she had to go through to provide for her children really agitated me to get more involved. It’s the reason I’m still out here.”
Dan Russell, statewide executive vice president of UPTE, said UPTE had also called its workers to strike in solidarity. He said UPTE had joined the strike to also protest illegal worker intimidation tactics by the UC.
“(The UC needs) to allow workers who are, you know, are exercising their rights, to be able to picket or demonstrate or speak out and strike without fear of retaliation,” he said.
Russell said UPTE had also filed an Unfair Practices charge against the UC. He added several UPTE workers who had stayed home for the strike Wednesday had received a letter from their management warning they would be disciplined if they did not return to work.
Lorna Carlyle, a care partner at Reagan Hospital and AFSCME member, said she joined the strike because she thinks the UC was refusing to provide workers with a fair contract.
“Why would you think (Reagan Hospital is) ranked No. 7 (in the nation)?” Caryle said. “Because we are doing a good job, right? If we are doing a good job, we should be treated good.”
Marco Pacheco, an AFSCME spokesperson, said AFSCME workers are an integral part of the UC.
“We want to have the respect we deserve,” Pacheco said. “And today is not about begging or asking for respect, it is about demanding respect.”
Contributing reports by Martin Bilbao, Daily Bruin contributor.