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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Injustice Protests

Union holds protests at UC medical centers in response to recent layoff notices

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Wednesday in protest of coronavirus-related layoffs across the University of California. (Justin Jung/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Justin Jung

June 24, 2020 5:04 pm

The University of California’s largest labor union organized a statewide protest Wednesday against UC-wide layoffs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“UC, UC, you’re no good, treat your workers like you should,” chanted dozens of unionized employees outside the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Wednesday.

The strike at UCLA involved union members from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 and Teamsters Local 2010. AFSCME Local 3299 also held protests at medical centers at UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Davis and UC San Francisco. Other unionized UC employees held virtual pickets Wednesday. 

AFSCME Local 3299 is the UC’s largest labor union, serving around 26,000 service and patient care workers across all 10 UC campuses. Teamsters Local 2010 represents about 14,000 UC and California State University administrative and clerical workers. 

The UC announced April 2 it would not lay off career workers for COVID-19-related reasons until June 30. However, the UC has already told over 200 workers they will be laid off, and notified union leaders that it plans to lay off over 3,000 systemwide, said AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse.

UC campuses have less need for workers because of the shift to remote operations, and has had to lay off workers without on-campus work, said UC spokesperson Sarah McBride. Most of these layoffs are temporary, and the UC may rehire these workers once on-campus activities resume, she added.

The UC lost $1.54 billion from mid-March to May because of the pandemic, McBride said.

The UC could use up to about $6 billion of $15.9 billion in several of its investment pools, according to a May UC Coalition of Unions report.

The UC has already used some of its investment funds to pay for pandemic-related costs, which include refunding students’ housing payments and reducing the volume of patients in hospitals, McBride said.

The UC cannot use its endowment funds due to pre-existing requirements that set how the funds are used, McBride said. The UC currently holds around $12.5 billion in university-administered endowments, according to the coalition report.

However, about $5.2 billion of the endowments are in unrestricted assets that could be used to offset pandemic-related costs, according to the coalition report. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget proposal also cut up to $372 million from UC funding. Additionally, the UC froze salary increases for staff and faculty, while UC chancellors took a voluntary 10% pay cut. 

In response to economic concerns, the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act gave about $550 million in funding to the UC and UC hospitals. 

Teamsters Local 2010 spokesperson Tanya Akel said UCLA should use its reserve funding, like the unrestricted assets, to prevent layoffs.

Many workers live in households in which they are the only ones working, and layoffs could be devastating to them and their families, said AFSCME Local 3299 member Rosalyn Williams, who attended the protest. 

The Wednesday protest followed nearly three years of protests for a new labor contract, which the union approved earlier this year. 

[Related link: UC patient care and service workers ratify wage increases, more in new contract]

“We stressed continuously for almost two and a half years to get this contract to make sure our jobs are secure,” Williams said. “And now they come to us, telling us that we’re laying off 3,000 across the UC board. That’s not good. They shouldn’t be laying off anyone during the pandemic.”

The newest layoffs will be a step back on recent progress on labor issues, union members said. 

“The only way to make change in society and the University of California is for people to have their voices heard,” Akel said. “We will continue to have our voices heard, until they are heard. We’re not going to stop.”

Contributing reports by Saumya Gupta and Genesis Qu, Daily Bruin staff

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Justin Jung | Assistant Enterprise editor
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