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Health insurance insecurity, labor outsourcing among union’s concerns in strike

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 went on strike Thursday to protest insurance insecurity and temporary laborer outsourcing. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Marilyn Chavez-Martinez, Rachel Durose, and Melissa Morris

May 16, 2019 3:28 p.m.

Oralia Palma, a medical assistant and union member, said she was recently diagnosed with lupus.

When she responded poorly to generic brand medication, she tried to switch brands but found her UCLA-provided insurance would not cover the expense. Palma said she felt her insurance failed to provide her with adequate health coverage, because she cannot afford the medicine that she needs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 went on strike for the fifth time in a year over issues including insurance insecurity and temporary labor outsourcing. AFSCME 3299 is the UC’s largest employee union and represents more than 25,000 patient care technicians and service workers.

About 100 AFSCME workers marched around campus and to the Chancellor’s office Thursday. Members of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America union marched in solidarity with AFSCME.

AFSCME filed three separate unfair labor practice charges in response to alleged illegal outsourcing in early May, said John de los Angeles, an AFSCME spokesperson, in an email statement.

Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the University of California Office of the President, said in an email statement the UC thinks AFSCME’s efforts are disruptive and will ultimately be unsuccessful.

“It’s clear AFSCME leaders are going to desperate lengths for attention, from sporadically announcing baseless accusations against the University to calling for a boycott of commencement speakers that squarely hurts students and their families,” Doan said.

De los Angeles said he thinks the UC has yet to properly acknowledge allegations of illegal outsourcing.

Danielle Mine, a pediatric dietitian and UPTE member, said union members are striking so they can afford to keep their jobs.

“We love our jobs, we love working with the students, with our patients, with this community. So we’re fighting for them,” Mine said. “Ultimately, we’re fighting to be able to provide them with the best care.”

Palma said the contracted workers she works with do not receive insurance benefits at all.

De los Angeles said this is a common issue and it is less expensive for an employer to rely on outsourced workers since they get paid less and do not receive insurance.

“There’s a little bit of an extra cost incentive to be using outsourced contract labor and that’s what is threatening to these workers and that’s what they’re so upset about.”

A group of about 20 student workers marched in solidarity with AFSCME in response to a conflict with Associated Students UCLA’s Human Resources Department.

Alexander Ferrer, a fourth-year geography and international development studies student, said supervisors told student employees at Kerckhoff Coffee House they could be fired for striking. Ferrer said the students originally began organizing in solidarity with AFSCME but decided to organize on their own behalf after facing these threats.

“AFSCME was nice enough to write a cease-and-desist letter from their lawyers in Oakland, and they also said they were sending an organizer in person to HR,” Ferrer said.

Mine said she hopes this strike will end with a productive contract and allow union members to return to work.

“We’re hoping this is it. We don’t want to be out here,” Mine said. “We want to just go back to work.”

Contributing reports from Wendy Li, Daily Bruin reporter.

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Marilyn Chavez-Martinez | Outreach director
Chavez-Martinez is the Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a third-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
Chavez-Martinez is the Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a third-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
Melissa Morris | Editor in chief
Morris is the 2020-2021 Editor in chief. She was previously the 2019-2020 assistant Enterprise editor as well as the 2018-2019 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She is also a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
Morris is the 2020-2021 Editor in chief. She was previously the 2019-2020 assistant Enterprise editor as well as the 2018-2019 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She is also a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
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