In a near-unanimous vote, the University of California service workers have authorized a strike, citing poor working conditions. This includes 8,300 UC workers, as well as over 13,000 patient care technical workers who will be going on a sympathy strike with the service workers.
The service worker and patient care technical units, who voted with 96 percent support, are both represented by AFSCME Local 3299. These workers are the lowest paid in the entire UC system.
“Our union is member-driven,” said AFSCME 3299’s spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. “We have a bargaining team who negotiates at the table.”
Voting lasted three days across the UC campuses. AFSCME 3299 is the University of California’s largest union, and represents more than 22,000 Service and Patient Care Technical Workers at the system’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, numerous clinics, and research laboratories.
“Our members seek a fair settlement, and this vote makes it clear that UC’s final offer fails to meet that standard,” said UC Service Worker and AFSCME 3299 Bargaining Team Member Jose Mendez. “The ball is now in UC’s court. We hope they will change course and finally choose to work towards an agreement that addresses our core issues and honors our contributions to the university. If not, our members are prepared to strike.”
AFSCME, which stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been bargaining 40 issues with the university, and their main priority is fair wage increases and safe staffing standards. Certain Regents have expressed their desire to improve conditions for these workers.
“After years of giving huge salaries to executives, it is time for the UC to show its lowest paid workers that they are a valued part of the UC family,” tweeted UC Regent and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Members of AFSCME have made it clear of their desire to compromise with the university, but are also aware of the power of their labor working on the UC campuses everyday.
“AFSCME has and will continue to bargain in good faith, but we will not negotiate against ourselves,” said AFSCME 3299 Bargaining Team Member and Patient Care Technical Worker Tim Thrush. “If UC is willing to make progress, we are willing to work around the clock to reach a settlement. But make no mistake, the decision to avert a strike lies solely with UC.”
The specific dates and duration of the strike have yet to be determined by AFSCME 3299’s bargaining team.
“I have members who sleep in cars despite working full time at the nation’s pre-eminent public university,” said Stenhouse. “That’s not okay.”