Patient Care Workers Strike on Campus

Patient Care Workers Strike on Campus


The strikers protested alleged unfair labor management practices and illegal intimidation and harassment from UC administration

University of California Workers of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 protested on Wednesday, Nov. 20 across all nine UC campuses and UC medical centers, including UCSD’s Thornton Hospital and the Hillcrest UCSD Medical Center.

The AFSCME strike includes UC Patient Care Technical Workers and Service Workers, along with solidarity-striking Graduate Teaching Assistants, UC students, elected officials and other UC workers.

Picket lines ran from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday on all campuses.

“Our members have both the legal right and moral responsibility to stand up for the safety of the students and patients we serve,” AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a press release on Nov. 20. “By attempting to silence workers, UC hasn’t just repeatedly broken the law — it has willfully endangered all who come to UC to learn, to heal and to build a better life for their families.”

AFSCME represents almost 13,000 UC patient care workers and 8,300 service employees and is UC’s largest union. The strike aims to correct disputes between the administration and workers due to alleged illegal intimidation and harassment. AFSCME has compiled evidence of illegal conduct, detailed in the complaint issued by the State’s Public Employment Relations Board in September 2013.

AFSCME Local 3299 has exempted some of its critical care workers from the strike, and Judge David I. Brown barred certain employees, including respiratory therapists and hemodialysis technicians from striking, as they perform essential functions in patient health and safety.

“By calling for a strike for a second time in seven months, AFSCME leaders again are putting patients at UC medical centers and student health centers in the middle of a labor dispute,” Senior Vice President for UC Health Sciences and Services Dr. John Stobo said in a Nov. 18 press release. “This is completely inappropriate and unfair to the people we are here to serve. Our patients and students are not bargaining chips. They deserve better.”

UCSD students also protested along Gilman Drive and throughout the university campus on Wednesday in solidarity with the AFSCME workers and the UC Student Workers Union, who were striking against unfair management and intimidation practices.

“We are here to support fellow union members and to use this strike as a bargaining chip for a new contract to get the administration to give in to their demands,” Chad, a UCSD graduate student with the United Auto Workers, said. “We would like students to know that only 9 percent of tuition actually goes to teachers and education — we want students to understand where our increasing fees go.” Graduate students of UCSD represent the UC Student-Workers Union, which includes 13,000 student-workers such as TAs, GSIs, Readers, both undergraduate and graduate, and strike in sympathy with AFSCME 3299.

“I’m here to support workers and organize against unfair labor practices on patient care workers, as the UC completely went back on their rights,” said Revelle College junior Simran Anand. “The workers were threatened and some lost their jobs.” Students joined the rally across the campus with the Unfair Labor Practice, UAW and AFSCME protesters to show their support for the unrest across campus.

On Nov. 18, just two days before the strike, a group of students went to UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla to try to get his letter of support for the workers with HDH, reinstate full lunch hours and an open door policy for workers.

“We wanted him to make a public statement supporting the workers, but we were disappointed,” said senior Tanner Smith, who is part of an ethnic studies practicum studying UC labor relations. “The Open Door policy is transparent … it took us three weeks just to meet with him, and they rescheduled our meeting without notifying us about the change. In the end, he refused to give us a clear answer and was very ambiguous about his decision.”

Despite the disappointing meeting, Smith remains optimistic: “I feel very great about the strike; it was great that a few grad students were able to shut down traffic for a few minutes.”

A.S. Council President Andy Buselt also took part in the strike to support the AFSCME and UAW protestors.
“We are here as students in solidarity for workers just as workers have supported us,” Buselt said. “This nine-campus strike is definitely showing the power of all the communities across these issues, from Graffiti Hall to undocumented student rights. UC Santa Cruz shut down because of the strike — this is making our power known to the administration that we are all here in solidarity.”

Custodial and dining workers also carried signs in protest. “We were promised an increase in October but never got it,” said a custodian at the 2 p.m. protest walk. “We work for the students, but we aren’t getting paid for the work. We’re not going to stop until we win.”

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    Mireya Pinell-CruzNov 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Those ‘alleged unfair labor management practices’ are not alleged; they are real, otherwise we not have been striking. Workers have been cut 1.5% of their pay, meanwhile, the highest ranking officials of the UC system received a 3% wage increase. Workers’ lunch hours have been reduced from one hour to half an hour and if they do not finish their assigned work for the day, they are forced to stay overtime without pay. This is slave labor. These practices are unfair, they are not ‘allegedly unfair’. Also, AFSCME is not who is putting medical patients and student in the middle of a labor dispute. The UC system put those people in the middle. If medical staff was not grossly understaffed then medical patients would receive much better care, and if teaching assistants were paid at living wages, and if undergraduates and all peoples who’s lives are affected by the UC system were treated with respect, there would not be a ‘dispute’. Guardian, I hope that you will speak the truth, and not what the UC system wants you to say. Sincerely, Mireya Pinell-Cruz, the student on the left in your front page picture.