UC employee union calls 3-day strike

SAN DIEGO — The union representing more than 25,000 University of California service workers and medical technicians announced plans Thursday for a three-day strike, citing what it calls stalled contract negotiations.

Officials with AFSCME Local 3299 said last week that more than 97 percent of its members had voted to authorize a strike if no progress was made in negotiations. UC officials, however, said the union had rejected an offer of “fair, multi-year wage increases and excellent medical and retirement benefits.”

In light of the impasse, the university system imposed contract terms on the union for the 2017-18 fiscal year, including 2 percent pay increases. The UC’s latest contract offer to the union had included annual 3 percent raises over the next four years, according to the university.

The union on Thursday issued a 10-day notice of their intent to conduct a three-day strike, beginning May 7.

“We’ve bargained in good faith for over a year to address the widening income, racial and gender disparities that front-line, low-wage workers at UC are living every day,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. “Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them — leaving workers no option but to strike.”

UC officials issued a statement saying they “strongly disagree with AFSCME’s decision to strike, which will negatively impact patients, students and the UC community.”

“AFSCME service employees at UC — including custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff — are compensated at or above the market and in some cases, but as much as 17 percent higher than comparable jobs, according to the university. What the union demanded was a 6 percent annual wage increase, which we think unfair to other UC employees, both represented and non-represented. This is twice what other UC employees have received.”

University officials said their final officer included, in addition to the pay raises, a lump-sum payment upon contract ratification, health benefits consistent with those of other workers and continuation of pension benefits for existing employees. New employees would be given a choice between a pension or 401(K)-style retirement plan.

Lybarger, however, accused the university of “subverting” the bargaining process by imposing contract terms on workers.

“Administrators are already showing us that we can expect more unequal treatment if we don’t stand up, fight back and hold UC accountable to its hollow claims of `pioneering a better future,”‘ Lybarger said.

According to the union, the strike will involve 9,000 service workers, joined by more than 15,000 Patient Care Technical workers.

The union represents workers such as security guards, groundskeepers, custodians, respiratory therapists, nursing aides and surgical technicians. The workers span UC’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, numerous clinics and research laboratories, according to the union.