By Ashley Duong
After a summer of unsuccessful negotiations, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299’s patient care unit members voted on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10 to authorize a potential strike. The union announced today that it would be striking Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 at the UC Medical Center, joined by AFSCME’s service unit as well as members from University Professional & Technical Employees, CWA 9119 (UPTE-CWA), which represents technical and professional employees at the University of California. This follows a three-day strike in May lead by AFSCME’s service unit, during which the patient care unit members also struck in solidarity.
AFSCME members voted with up to 96 percent of their patient care unit membership in favor of authorizing a strike. Monica De Leon, the Vice President of the patient care unit union members claims the UC has failed to respond to workers request for the UCs to end outsourcing, their greatest concern.
“For over three months, the University has changed nothing and continues to give us the same type of proposal… We have maintained our primary concern is outsourcing… the university has, for over a year, refused to acknowledge the issue,” De Leon said. “They’ve offered one-time upfront payouts but that doesn’t solve the issue of long-term job security… What good is a raise if your job is outsourced tomorrow?”
The UCs have proposed a contract that would include a three percent raise for all patient care employees (across four years) as well as a $750 one-time, lump-sum payment.
De Leon explained that the university’s money-saving tactics, which include outsourcing work and emergency layoffs — the unannounced dismissal of a patient care worker, even in the middle of a working shift — are dangerous for patients and threaten the quality of service and care patients would receive.
John De Los Angeles, a spokesperson from AFSCME Local 3299, noted that “While UC has slashed compensation of workers, asked students to pay more, and continues to outsource, the university has continued to pay its highest paid executives even more and their bonuses have increased exponentially.”
In response to the call for the vote of a potential strike, a spokesperson from the University Office of the President said, “UC is disappointed that AFSCME leadership has indicated they will ask their members to vote on whether to strike instead of on our offer. AFSCME leadership is requesting a wage increase that is double what other unions have agreed to — and what was given to non-represented employees.”
Following the stalled negotiations and the call for the strike vote, the UCs announced imposed contracts for patient care unit workers, which the union described as “an attempt to circumvent and subvert the collective bargaining process required by state law” in a recent press release. AFSCME has also accused the UCs of engaging in union busting tactics that violate state law by failing to hand over union member contact information.
De Leon explained that the best way students could support workers is by showing up to picket lines.
“AFSCME and students have a long history of sticking together. A lot of students, parents are members [of the union], and even if it is not bloodline family, we’re an Irvine family and we want to make sure everything is run smoothly and fairly,” De Leon said.