By Miguel Lopez
Patient care technicians of the University of California are striking all across the state as attempts to negotiate for livable wages and job security grow unsuccessful.
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest employee union, began their three day strike on Tuesday, Oct. 23rd after over 20 months of unsuccessful negotiations with the UC for a fair contract for their employees.
The workers are striking against many changes the UC is proposing that union members claim would limit potential career paths for employees and cause financial hardship. Outsourcing of jobs ties directly to the limiting, and potential elimination, of careers for patient care technicians and service workers that could move them into the middle class. Instead of contracting employees through the UC with a set salary and benefits, they are opting to hire subcontractors that are willing to work for less money with no guaranteed benefits. These money-saving tactics are being suggested just over a year after UC gave 3 percent raises to 8 of their 10 chancellors, with UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman’s salary going from $499,550 to $514,537.
Humberto, a patient care technician for the UCI medical center who declined to give his last name, talked about the sacrifices all the strikers are making to be out there. He noted that three days without pay, aside from the $70 a day offered to those who need hardship assistance, is a big sacrifice for low-income workers that need to support a family, not to mention the cost of living in Orange County.
Aside from the outsourcing, UC is also proposing to raise health care premiums by up to 61 percent, increase the minimum age of retirement by 5 years, and incorporate emergency layoffs in situations of financial “crisis.” If negotiations don’t work out, the real crises will be endured by the victims of the UC’s proposals. Maria Carmen Sandoval, who has been working for the UC for 21 years as a service worker striking in solidarity with the patient care techs, says that she wouldn’t be able to sustain her family if these propositions are enacted. An increased healthcare premium would lead to less overall income at home, and an extra five years before retirement eligibility seems like the smallest problem considering the aforementioned outsourcing would prevent many of these employees from reaching their retirement.
With workers on strike, dining halls have experience back-ups in service; students have also reported being locked out of certain classrooms because the service workers who unlock them daily are on strike. The workers, including Sandoval, mentioned that they would rather be working, but they cannot agree to the UC’s proposals. “It’s not our fault we’re here, it’s theirs,” said Sandoval. “We don’t want a second class job. We just want fair treatment and dignified work.”
When asked what would happen if the UC doesn’t compromise with their demands, all workers responded with the same thing: “We’re going to keep fighting until we get what we deserve.”