The University of California’s largest employee union announced a systemwide strike Thursday.
Workers throughout the UC represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 voted Wednesday to go on strike. The strike, which passed with 97 percent approval among AFSCME Local 3299 members, follows disputes between the union and the UC over its contract negotiation.
John de los Angeles, the communications director for AFSCME Local 3299, said the decision to vote on a strike was the result of a report on the UC’s employment data that found the UC had widened the pay gap between executive and service workers.
“One of the biggest concerns we have is the issue of widening inequality with respect to race, gender and income,” he said.
De los Angeles said he thinks the UC has failed to come up with a meaningful proposal to combat the report’s findings, which include the statistic that UC’s African-American workforce that deals with patient care and service has shrunk by 37 percent between 1996 and 2015.
UC spokesperson Claire Doan said the University was unable to confirm the validity of these findings because they had no knowledge of how the union conducted their analysis.
One of the biggest problems de Los Angeles said AFSCME had with the UC was the UC’s increased outsourcing of jobs to outside contractors.
“Really this is a hard hit to not only the working people of California but also to taxpayers. Nobody ever wants to go on strike, … it’s a financial risk,” he said. “But we were bargaining with the UC for over a year: We have exhausted the bargaining possibilities and we are at a final impasse.”
Doan said the union rejected the University’s final settlement offered on April 6, which would have included a 3 percent annual wage increase over the next four years, health care benefits and pensions plans.
De los Angeles said he disagreed with Doan’s assessment that the UC’s proposal was fair because he said the University’s wage increase proposal does not keep up with the rising cost of living.
“Our workers can’t afford to live where they work. … The UC is not providing us with the opportunity to keep up with this cost of living,” he said.
De los Angeles said he thinks the strike should not focus on the failure of the UC and AFSCME to reach an agreement in the last year of bargaining.
“Bargaining difficulties are not the problem; they are a symptom of the problem,” de los Angeles said. “If we were able to address the inequality, we could address the root issue and wouldn’t have the symptom of bargaining impasses.”
The union has also called on UC graduation speakers to boycott university commencement addresses, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, who is speaking at UC Berkeley on May 12, and Rep. John Lewis, who is speaking at UC San Diego on June 16.
Contributing reports from Ani Gasparyan, Daily Bruin contributor.