UCLA workers voice their concerns as AFSCME begins three-day strike
AFSCME Local 3299, which represents roughly 25,000 patient care technicians, is holding a three-day strike over claims of UC outsourcing. Service workers are striking in solidarity. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)
By Anirudh Keni and Julia Shapero
Oct. 24, 2018 12:33 a.m.
This post was updated Oct. 29 at 11:10 p.m.
A University of California employee union went on strike Tuesday to voice their concerns about outsourcing, job security and stagnant wages in the UC.
American Federation of County, State and Municipal Workers Local 3299, the UC’s largest employee union, is striking on campus from Tuesday to Thursday to protest the UC’s outsourcing of jobs. AFSCME represents more than 25,000 service workers and patient care technicians. The union previously held a three-day strike in May over claims that the UC perpetuates gender-based and racial discrimination in its hiring and wage practices.
Andrew Martinez, a senior custodian who has worked for the UC for 14 years, said he thinks outsourcing suppresses employees wages, reduces full-time opportunities and reduces incentives. He said he wants the UC to bargain fairly and went to the California Public Employment Relations Board in 2017 to present his case. The PERB is responsible for the enforcement of collective bargaining laws at California public universities.
Martinez added he strongly advocates for resolving the income disparity between different minorities.
“If you look at the UC employment history, a black woman makes much less for the same position as that of a white male,” he said. “We need to fight against this lack of advancement and improving retention and outreach to minority communities.”
Anthony Duncan, a grounds equipment operator at UCLA who has worked for the university for the past eight years, said he does not think the UC offers fair contracts that protect job security.
“We are striking (against) the UC because it’s our only leverage,” he said. “We must have the freedom to choose, rather than staying in fear everyday that we might be fired tomorrow, and our contracts currently don’t protect us from this.”
UC said in a media statement that AFSCME leaders are spreading inaccurate information about the outsourcing of union employees. The statement said that over the past five years, the number of patient care employees at UC has actually increased by 18.9%, and the number of service workers has increased by 14.4%, which matches the growth of union workers. UC added that spending on campus service contracts has not significantly increased.
Monica Martinez, a clinical partner who has worked at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for almost two decades, said she thinks upper management is being unfairly compensated with higher pay at the expense of the individual workers. She added that she wants contracts to be more secure because with rising real estate prices, it is harder for employees like those in AFSCME to afford housing.
“I have been working here for 18 years, and I always come across student patients. We want to make their stay comfortable, and even now if there’s an emergency, I will run to help my patient,” she said. “But all we ask of the UC are two things: job security and equality.”
Students also participated in the rallies Tuesday to demonstrate solidarity with workers. AFSCME 3299 members include dining hall and cleaning services employees on the Hill.
Micah Moss, a second-year political science student, said he joined the strikers with the rest of his labor studies class.
“I’m here to support the strike because I think too often we forget that it’s not just the students and teachers who make up UCLA,” he said.
Pam Gwen, a fourth-year psychology and gender studies student, said she joined the strike to apply the concepts of equality she has learned during her time at UCLA.
“I’m supporting the strikes because we’re at an institution where we’re told to think critically about race, gender, sex and differences in the classrooms and when I look outside I see the people who are supporting me as a student … they’re not being treated equally,” she said.
She added she thinks students should show their solidarity in simple ways such as saying hello to workers, because a lot of the workers feel unacknowledged.
“I just can’t learn and read if I’m not going to physically have a presence, then what’s the point?” she said.