By Sheri Williams
Union members of AFSCME 3299 and their allies staged pickets in front of University of California hospitals across the state in June to protest the impending layoffs of hundreds of vulnerable workers, with thousands more looming.
In Sacramento, union members gathered at UC Davis to fight for members’ rights. Recently, the university announced it planned to lay off about 200 workers for ten weeks in the fall, and could lay off up to 3,000 people overall, said union officials. The workers, almost entirely people of color, are mostly food service workers.
Sacramento Central Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso called the pending layoffs an “unconscionable move during a pandemic that we know is hitting our low-wage workers and people of color the hardest.”
Sasso said the university’s layoffs put workers and their families at risk.
“These are our neighbors, our community members, our union sisters and brothers,” Sasso said. “Like nurses and doctors, they have put their lives on the line throughout this pandemic to keep our hospitals open and serving coronavirus patients to save lives. Pushing them out of their jobs at a time of great economic upheaval, after all their sacrifice, is the worst of corporate and institutional greed and we aren’t going to stand for it.”
Sasso and others pointed out that the university has millions in cash reserves, and has received substantial federal aid.
“While our members perform the hard work of caring for patients and keeping students safe during this public health crisis, recent research has documented how UC does not need to resort to the types of austerity cuts that will hurt low income people of color the most,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “UC’s morally bankrupt choice to cast aside these dedicated workers will not save money or help one more Californian get an education. Instead, it will condemn more of our state’s most vulnerable workers to poverty and insecurity in the midst of a pandemic.”
University Administrators have notified workers that despite strong hospital revenues, receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal Coronavirus Relief funds, and more than $10 billion in unrestricted cash reserves, it would begin laying off employees.
The first notices went out to approximately 200 primarily food service workers at UC San Diego and UC Riverside over the past week. The workers make annual salaries of $41,000 per year, and the layoffs are expected to save the $40 billion UC system a total of $1.5 million – or four thousandths of one percent.
The layoff notices follow a similar action at UC Hastings College of the Law in late May. Despite $83 million in cash reserves and a $6 million surge in private donations over the past year, Hastings administrators announced a first round of layoffs impacting eight AFSCME 3299 represented employees – who had each worked at the school an average of 12 years and were all people of color – in late May.
A GoFundMe page has been established to aid workers affected by UC’s recently announced layoffs: www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-workers-laid-off-at-ucsd-hdh