By Ryan Mikeala Nguyen
University of California workers went on strike for 24 hours on April 10 to protest continually stalled contract negotiations. The strike formally started at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday and ended at 12:00 a.m. on Thursday.
In the past 26 months, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME), the UC’s largest employee union, have gone on multiple strikes against the UC system due to salary disputes, cut benefits, and unequal opportunities. In a solidarity with AFSCME, the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union also participated in the strike.
According to the AFSCME union, the university distributed mailers that provoked numerous tactics to eliminate the union since the last time they went on strike in October. In addition, the university sent information that attempted to discourage workers from staying in the union and going on strike by offering pool parties, gift baskets, and providing lunches the week of the strike.
“Through its actions, the University of California has created a hostile work environment that undermines workers’ ability to exercise their rights and voice concerns in the workplace,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. “We will not allow UC to silence the voices of its most vulnerable workers — who’re overwhelmingly people of color — and we will take all necessary actions to hold UC accountable for any illegal behavior.”
The workers went on strike to promote awareness of the university’s refusal to compromise with previous demands; for example, eliminating outsourcing and the growing income inequality at UCs. Just this past month, the union filed unfair labor practice charges against the University of California for their repeated violation of worker rights.
“The university doesn’t regard the voice of the workers, so that’s why we’re out here again to advocate for ourselves and let the university know that we will not tolerate the university trying to bully any of their workers or try to silence the voice of the workers,” Jorge Serrato, an AFSCME Local 3299 organizer, said.
The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has been fighting for the workers and has filed complaints of the UC’s violation of the state laws, AB 119 and SB 866. These existing laws were designed for public employees to be able to remain members of an employee organization.
“The university are not above the law; they have to respect the law. It’s written in a way to make it fair for workers to voice their concern, their issues they have in the workplace,” Serrato said. “What we really hope to accomplish out of this is that the university will no longer be able to violate the law and that workers will be able to freely express themselves.”
The UC’s imposing on workers is not a new matter. Senator Bernie Sanders visited UCLA on March 20 to condemn the unfair corporate practice of the UC system.
“One of the reasons we’re out here is the unfair labor practices,” Erich Wise, Vice President of the UPTE-CWA Local 9119 Chapter 8, said. “They’ve been intimidating workers. We had an issue where a supervisor assaulted a worker that was picketing and the university didn’t do anything about it. We’ve had officers harm one of our workers at the picket line. They’ve done a number of union-busting tactics where they try to illegally convince our workers to quit the union and not to come out on strike. Anything they can to intimidate workers, all of which have been found to be illegal.”
This strike aims to forge a new contract between the UC system and its 25,000 employees that are in the unions.
“We appreciate the support that we get from a number of students and fellow UPTE-CWA members that are out with us and in a solidarity strike as well. [Students] see what the university is trying to do to us and UPTE members as well,” Serrato said.