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UC Service Workers Will Return To Picket Line As Three-Day Strike Continues

Nurses, tech workers expected to join the picket lines Tuesday and Wednesday

University of California employees picket as a three-day strike begins in San...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: University of California employees picket as a three-day strike begins in San Diego, May 7, 2018.

UC Service Workers Will Return to Picket Line as Three-Day Strike Continues

GUEST:

Matt Hoffman, reporter, KPBS News

Transcript

Thousands of University of California service workers will continue a three-day strike Tuesday, with pickets planned at campuses and medical facilities across the state, including at UCLA and UC Irvine Medical Center.

Service workers represented by Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began the walkout Monday, demanding higher salaries and bolstered staffing. UC officials have repeatedly criticized the union for calling the strike, accusing it of rejecting an offer of "fair, multi-year wage increases and excellent medical and retirement benefits."

RELATED: UC Employees Hit Picket Lines For Three-Day Strike

The strike got off to a rocky start Monday at UCLA, where a motorist apparently got impatient and tried to drive through the picketers crossing a street. Witnesses said the man first got out of his SUV with a stick, threatening picketers, then got back in his car and tried to drive through the crowd.

Police said three people suffered minor injuries in the clash. The driver was taken into custody.

In light of the impasse in contract talks, the university system last month imposed contract terms on the union for the 2017-18 fiscal year, including 2 percent pay increases. The UC's latest contract offer to the union included annual 3 percent raises over the next four years, according to the university.

The union denounced the move to impose contract terms, responding by issuing a notice of a strike set to last until Wednesday.

"We've bargained in good faith for over a year to address the widening income,racial and gender disparities that front-line, low-wage workers at UC are living every day," AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. "Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them -- leaving workers no option but to strike."

UC officials issued a statement saying they "strongly disagree with AFSCME's decision to strike, which will negatively impact patients, students and the UC community."

"We are doing everything in our power to limit disruptions on our campuses and medical centers to ensure our patients get the care they need and our students the services they deserve," according to the UC.

The UC insisted that its service workers -- including custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff -- are compensated at or above the market rate, "and in some cases, by as much as 17 percent higher than comparable jobs."

University officials said the union is demanding a 6 percent annual wage increase, "which is twice what other UC employees have received."

They said their final officer included, in addition to the pay raises, a lump-sum payment upon contract ratification, health benefits consistent with those of other workers and continuation of pension benefits for existing employees. New employees would be given a choice between a pension or 401(K)-style retirement plan.

Lybarger, however, accused the university of "subverting" the bargaining process by imposing contract terms on workers.

"Administrators are already showing us that we can expect more unequal treatment if we don't stand up, fight back and hold UC accountable to its hollow claims of `pioneering a better future,"' Lybarger said.

According to the union, the strike will involve 9,000 service workers, but they will be joined by more than 15,000 Patient Care Technical workers.

The union represents workers such as security guards, groundskeepers, custodians, respiratory therapists, nursing aides and surgical technicians. The workers span UC's 10 campuses, five medical centers, numerous clinics and research laboratories, according to the union.

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