Contract fight continues with UC

By Sheri Williams

Continuing a long-running fight with the University of California, members of UPTE-CWA and AFSCME braved the rain to protest the unfair labor practices and refusal to negotiate by the school system in late May.

The action was the fifth strike in 13 months. It focused on the outsourcing of union jobs, especially in Sacramento where a planned rehabilitation hospital at Aggie Square would use a third-party contractor to avoid having union employees. The union has filed a complaint with the California Labor Board against the university for using the private-sector company to subvert its labor contracts.

“The University of California has bypassed its workers at every turn, refusing to meet and confer about plans to outsource middle-class jobs in California to poverty wage contractors,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, in a statement. “By cutting workers out of decisions about who will be providing the services that UC patients and students rely on, it’s clear that UC is focused on one thing – paying its lowest wage workers even less.”

Workers also walked out at all campuses across the state, continuing a series of actions that have gone on for months as UC continues to undermine its workers’ attempts to negotiate.

Lybarger continued, “UC is attempting to create two different workforces through its unfair practices – workers that have protections to speak up, decent wages, and benefits, versus workers who are obedient and disposable, with low wages and little to no benefits. UC is creating a race to the bottom, and that I’m against.”

In some places across California, the one-day action led to arrests. Union members disrupted a UC regents meeting at UCSF, leading to more than a dozen people being detained and later released, according to media reports.

Earlier in the month, Senator Bernie Sanders visited striking UC workers at UCLA to support workers, and said the university was acting like a “corporate-type employer.”