AFSCME 3299 Calls Strike Vote

The UC system’s largest union will hold its third strike vote in less than a year Feb. 11 to Feb. 13 over continued contract disputes

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees 3299, the University of California’s largest union, called for a strike vote among its 8,300 service workers and a sympathy strike with other patient care technicians Feb. 11 to Feb. 13. More than 60 workers had protested earlier in the year on Sept. 27 at the UC Office of the President in Oakland.

AFSCME 3299 claims that, despite a year of negotiations, the UC system has not renewed the union’s contract, which first expired in September 2012. According to the AFSCME website, the university has yet to grant AFSCME the safe staffing standards and fair wages that they have given to other UC union workers. UC patient care and service workers are predominantly people of color and are the lowest paid workers in the UC system. They have previously protested due to the rising rates of workplace injuries on campus and growing government fines against UC medical centers.

AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger has overseen the three strike votes and two strikes of the last year.

“If there’s one thing our membership has shown over the past year, it’s our willingness to compromise in an effort to reach agreement with UC,” Lybarger said.

AFSCME has previously gone on strike over the same expired contract, once in May and another time in September of last year.

The strikes were unsuccessful in ending the contract negotiations, though other unions such as University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America have settled agreements for higher wages with the system.

“UC is using a double standard when it comes to patient care and service workers, refusing to offer the same staffing safeguards, wage fairness and benefits that they have already granted to other UC employees,” a petition on the AFSCME website said.

A chart on the AFSCME website comparing the promises that the UC system gave service workers to the promises it gave to other unions illuminates some of the problems AFSCME complains about. AFSCME asserts that the UC system continues to treat patient care and service workers as if they are “second-class citizens.”

Despite the fact that several contract disputes between the union and university have been settled, the two remain at an impasse regarding safe staffing guidelines and wage increases.

“Regents have the ability to bring end to this dispute. We need them to get involved,” Lybarger said in an interview with The Daily Californian on Jan. 22. “They need to know that our backs are against the wall, and we wanted them to know that it’s come to the point of a strike vote.”

However, the UC system, including spokesperson Shelly Meron, once again disagrees with the idea of another strike, believing that it will harm innocent patients.

“As we’ve said all along, we believe a labor strike is not productive and hurts our patients and students,” Meron said in an email, according to The Daily Californian. “These issues need to be resolved at the bargaining table.”

The two groups, AFSCME and the UC system, still remain in conflict despite the year’s efforts to come to an agreement. Neither side appears to budge in their decision.
“We cannot in good conscience compromise on the safety of our members and the people they serve, nor can we accept second class treatment when it comes to issues like wages and benefits,” Lybarger said. “It is sadly ironic that at a time when her old boss, President Obama, is working to address the problem of inequity across America, Janet Napolitano seems to be working just as hard to perpetuate it at the University of California.”