Patients Are A Virtue
Let us explain the UC patient care workers. Many of these patient care workers were asking for better care for the patients they were serving at the hospitals and health care centers where they are currently employed. One UCSF patient care worker, a registered respiratory care practioner, argued for her patients’ rights to get access to all forms of therapy they need whenever they could.
Think of patient care workers as the janitors that cleaned your hall freshmen year. The ones that you smiled at and quietly muttered “thank you” to.
Maybe you even learned their names as they were busy cleaning the yards of hair out of the shower drain. Think of patient care workers as the lab techs who oversee the costly research labs that students and professors conduct their research in, paying no attention to the lab techs when they return the glassware and chemicals they checked out earlier.
Last week, UC patient care workers from the AFSCME 3299 union went on strike at several medical centers throughout the entire UC system. The workers, who have been in negotiation with the UC over several issues for the last 12 months, grew increasingly agitated as they feel that their concerns have not been properly addressed.
These workers are fighting for several issues that would concern any worker: salary, pensions and the quality of their work. One of the biggest issues that the patient care workers face is the severe understaffing in the UC hospitals, which they claim has led to patient harm and neglect. The workers are also concerned over the inequality in their current salary and pension programs. Workers have been faced with a surge of temporary employment and private contracting which hinders their ability to reach a long enough term for pension benefits. Due to a newly implemented tier system, it has been increasingly difficult for workers to gain some pension benefits or any at all.
At the same time, high-ranking executives have the pleasure of getting pay raises, while workers remain with low salaries, short-term employment and being understaffed.
Sound familiar? As students within the UC system, we’ve been faced with rising tuition, increased fees and widespread cuts to available resources on campus like convenient library hours and LARC.
AFSCME 3299 is calling for attention and changes with these issues, especially when it comes to staffing. They have asked for the ability to form a committee that would have a say in staffing levels and patient to staff ratios. However, instead of remedying these concerns, executives within the UC system have continually tried to hinder their right to strike and speak up against these issues, going as far as issuing restraining orders and arrests at a Regents meeting.
As UC students, we need to stand in solidarity with these workers and support their cause.
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