Smart Compromise Resolves AFSCME Strike

The strikers can now put their picket signs away as the University of California and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 finally came to a long-awaited agreement.

After two years of unsuccessful negotiations, strikes and university protests, the UC system and AFSCME 3299 were able to settle a four-year contract that will positively benefit 13,000 UC patient care technical workers. The new Patient Technical Care Worker contract will ultimately improve workers’ compensation, working conditions and job security and will be considered binding through 2017. The drafted agreement received almost completely unanimous approval — a 99 percent approval vote — from the AFSCME 3299 union for ratification, leaving both parties amicable and ready to get back to work.

Though these changes have undoubtedly taken a long time, we’re glad that both sides are now willing to communicate and create a successful compromise after so much acrimonious volleying back and forth. The long, drawn-out negotiations were becoming a sore topic that had ramifications for both the UC medical systems’ and campuses’ finances and their ability to provide quality health care.

The conflict had also started to leak into students’ lives. AFSCME’s 24-hour November strike in Fall 2013 garnered enough sympathy to rouse the UC Student-Workers union UAW 2865 in a show of solidarity, as teaching assistants, readers and graduate student instructors marched together with patient care and service workers. Beyond attracting a great deal of attention, the addition of sympathetic unions in these support strikes disrupted students’ schedules and cut precious hours of class out of a quarter system that is already desperately short on time.

In the future, we hope that the UC system will be more receptive to change before the strike card gets played. It’s worth noting that this is the second strike this year that the UC system has successfully avoided by offering tentative contracts. Just last month, the University of California avoided another five-day AFSCME strike set for March 3 through March 7 that would have cost the system $10 million daily in lost revenues and wages for replacement temporary workers. That was until the UC system, in a rather familiar action, managed to negotiate a tentative agreement on a four-year contract. Evidently, these talks ended unsatisfactorily, and this time around, workers threatened a five-day strike starting March 24. This threat stood until the University of California once again averted disaster with one more, hopefully final, contract negotiation.

After the long, two-year stalemate between the AFSCME and the UC system — threats of emergency layoffs countered with threats of strikes and so on — we are hoping that this compromise can put an end to the standoff. We are optimistic that this will be a lasting settlement and that the UC system and AFSCME can maintain common ground for future productivity and understanding.

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