Thousands of University of California research and technical workers, joined in solidarity by thousands more healthcare and patient-care employees, picketed at facilities across the state Wednesday in a one-day strike called amid contentious contract negotiations.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders was among those joining the striking workers outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, one of many strike locations around California.
“The University of California is one of the great university systems in the world, but it is not good enough to be a great university,” Sanders told the cheering crowd. ” … It is not good enough to have a great hospital or medical center. The University of California must not be a corporate-type employer. The University of California must be a model employer.
“It must be an employer that respects its workers. It must be a employer that treats its workers with dignity and it must sit down with its union and negotiate in good faith,” Sanders said. “I want to thank you for standing up and fighting back, because the struggle that you are fighting here is a struggle that exists in every state in this country. … The working families of this country are demanding an economy that works for all of us, and that can begin right here.”
About 10,000 workers represented by the University Professional & Technical Employees, or UPTE, union walked picket lines across the state. According to union officials, they were being joined by about 5,000 UPTE-represented healthcare workers and as many as 27,000 patient-care technical and service workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
The union claims the UC’s latest wage-increase offer is less than half of what it gave workers represented by the California Nurses Association, and also included retirement cuts while rejecting overtime improvements and limitations on the use of part-time workers.
“It’s insulting for UC executives to continue to try to force us into accepting these offers,” UC San Diego information-technology worker David Carlos said in a statement released by the union. “It shows a profound lack of commitment to the institution as a whole. Research and technology drive UC’s greatness and the short-sighted attempt by UC executives to undermine and outsource career work will be felt by students, patients and the public at large.”
A university representative called it “unfortunate” that the unions opted hold its third walkout in less than a year.
“The way to a deal is at the bargaining table, not on the picket lines, and should not come at the expense of patients, students, the university and our communities,” according to the university. “We are disappointed with UPTE leadership, who are demanding unreasonable double-digit raises — 26 percent over the life of the agreement — that are far beyond those given to other UC employees.
“Since negotiations began in 2017, our offers have been fair and substantial, guaranteeing competitive wage increases and excellent benefits,” according to the university. “Meanwhile, UPTE leaders have neither presented a realistic counteroffer nor allow their members to vote on UC’s proposals.”
University officials said they are “doing everything we can to make sure this ill-advised strike has only a minimal impact on student services, patient care and our university communities.”
According to the union, the UPTE workers staging Wednesday’s walkout run clinical healthcare trials and laboratory tests, manage classroom and hospital technology, monitor building safety and care for research animals, among other tasks.