Two University of California employee unions, representing about 39,000 employees, announced a systemwide strike Friday.
University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119, which represents about 14,000 research and technical workers in the UC, issued a notice Friday that it will strike March 20.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest employee union, also announced Friday it would join the strike in solidarity with UPTE-CWA 9119. AFSCME Local 3299 represents more than 25,000 patient care technicians and services in the UC.
The two unions have been working to negotiate new contracts regarding wages and outsourcing with the UC since 2017.
Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said in an email statement she thinks it is unfortunate that the unions are choosing to strike for the third time in less than a year.
“The University feels the way to a deal is at the bargaining table – not on the picket lines – and should not come at the expense of patients, students, the university and our communities,” Doan said.
Dan Russell, executive vice president of UPTE, said the union has been bargaining for 22 months, adding that the UC has been bringing similar offers to the table each time.
“We’re really concerned about the impact that’s going to have on the kind of education and health care and research that we’re able to do at the University because the work that we do is so integral to all those things,” Russell said.
Doan said the UC is disappointed in UPTE leadership for demanding double-digit raises, which she said are around 16 to 22 percent over the proposed terms of the agreement and larger than those given to other UC employees.
“Since negotiations began in 2017, our offers have been fair and substantial, guaranteeing competitive wage increases and excellent benefits,” Doan said. “Meanwhile, UPTE leaders have neither presented a realistic counteroffer nor have they let their members vote on UC’s proposals.”
Russell said the UC has not provided UPTE or AFSCME the same deals they are providing to others in the UC.
“UC has been giving great deals to their top executives and they gave a deal to the nurses union that was a lot better than anything that they’ve offered to us or AFSCME,” Russell said. “I think it’s kind of disingenuous for UC to come to us and demand that we provide a counteroffer or allow our members to vote when they’re clearly not giving us the kind of deal that really respects the work that we do.”
Doan said the AFSCME leaders distributed the press release announcing their intent to strike, while they were negotiating with the UC.
“We feel this is disingenuous,” Doan said. “It’s clear they are not truly engaging in the bargaining process, while we remain intent on making reasonable compromises to get a deal.”
John de los Angeles, an AFSCME 3299 spokesperson, said the union thinks the UC is shortchanging workers.
“By shortchanging workers, they’re eroding the quality of services that students and and patients have come to rely on and undermining the economic mobility they profess in the classroom,” de los Angeles said.
De los Angeles added that he feels the best way for students who care about the workers’ issues to express their support is to join the strike in person.
“There’s nothing more important than to show up on the line, to show UC just how many people care about these issues and be part of the physical display,” de los Angeles said.