About 13,000 union workers at five University of California medical centers, including the one in San Francisco, went on a two-day strike Tuesday morning.
Randall Johnson, an MRI technologist at UCSF, said employees are staging the work action over staffing levels, contracting out, pension contributions and other issues.
"We've been in negotiations for over a year and there's been no major movement on the core issues so we're at an impasse," Johnson said on Monday.
Johnson said members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 are leading the two-day strike and will be supported by members of the University Professional and Technical Employees union.
In addition to UCSF, the strike will take place at UC medical centers at San Diego, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, where the UC Davis Medical Center is located.
Dr. John Stobo, the UC system's senior vice president for health sciences and services, said the university estimates that the strike will cost $20 million, which he said means that "there will be fewer dollars to support the education of medical students and residents to support programs to improve medical care."
Stobo said, "The real impact is the safety of our patients and we've had to cancel a significant number of surgeries" because of the strike.
Dr. Joshua Adler, the chief medical officer at UCSF, said the strike has forced the hospital to cancel surgery for more than 150 patients, including cancer patients who were supposed to have chemotherapy and radiation treatments and five children who were supposed to have congenital heart surgery.
Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president for human resources, said, "Patients shouldn't be in the middle of a labor dispute."
Duckett alleged that after contract talks began last June, AFSCME "made it clear that they were determined to flex their muscles and go on strike."
He also alleged that the union has refused to contribute more money to employees' retirement costs.
But Johnson said employees don't think they should contribute more to retirement costs if management doesn't also increase its contributions to retirement costs.
Johnson added, "Contracting out jobs to non-union workers and staffing levels are equally important to us."
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge issued an injunction Monday that limits the scope of the strike but said it could take place.