Last Wednesday, 98 percent of UC Irvine service and patient care workers approved a vote to authorize an unfair labor practice strike, a number narrowly surpassing the statewide approval rating of 96 percent.
“The workers are ready to go,” said Jennifer Alvarez, a fourth-year public health science major and student intern for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299, a statewide labor union representing approximately 20,000 workers at 10 campuses and five medical centers.
Upon receiving news that the workers called a strike vote, UC representatives invited AFSCME representatives back to the bargaining table yesterday as well as to meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. At the time of this writing, AFSCME will either announce the strike date or hold off, depending on negotiations.
The vote followed numerous cases of UC employees facing illegal pressure from managers for exercising their collective bargaining rights through strike participation or voting to strike.
A formal complaint issued by California’s Public Employment Relations Board outlines 39 instances that breach the guarantees afforded to workers under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act.
In one such case this past May, Demetria Westmoreland told UC Davis bargaining unit employees she would write down names of strikers in order to know whose employment to terminate.
An April incident saw Valerie Seng, an AFSCME-represented employee, being asked if she voted to authorize a strike and how others had voted.
On May 28, Sharon Lanzetta marked 11 strikers as “no call/no show” while five days prior four nurses who did not participate in the strike were permitted to take a day off.
The workers are not the only ones being intimidated — the organizers that advocate on their behalf are now facing significant pushback as well.
Jorge Serrato, UC Irvine’s campus organizer for AFSCME 3299, was recently escorted away by police while waiting for workers to clock out so that he may talk to them.
The organizer has also recently been required to notify management in Arroyo Vista and Verano Place housing communities before speaking to employees. Housing management has the right to be notified whenever Serrato comes to talk to workers, but has only recently started enforcing this policy, according to Serrato, in light of mounting union activity preceding a possible strike.
Even in the face of increasing opposition from UC administrators, however, the workers remain adamant in their cause.
“Overwhelmingly, the employees have demonstrated that they have not been given the level of respect they deserve based upon the amount of years that they have worked, the level of service they have provided for students and staff and the amount of wealth they have accumulated for the University,” Serrato said.
Check online at www.newuniversity.org for developments regarding negations.