UC Medical Center Workers to Stage 1-Day Strike

Workers at the University of California's five medical centers will stage a one-day strike Thursday to protest what they say is the university's move to outsource union jobs to private sector companies.

Many of the roughly 25,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 are expected to walk off the job and onto picket lines Thursday over what union leaders call UC's "radical privatization plans."

"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," AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said.

The union filed three unfair labor practices complaints with the California Public Employment Relations Board earlier this year, alleging that UC's failure to deal with the union over the issues is a violation of state law.

In one complaint, the union claims that the university failed to bargain with workers at the UC Davis Medical Center over its planned joint venture with Kindred Healthcare, a non-union company tapped to take over operations at a new adult rehabilitation center.

Another complaint alleges that the university failed to notify or talk to the union about its plan to contract with Aya Healthcare to provide non-union workers to at least three of its medical centers at a cost of up to $150 million annually.

"The scope of this enterprise is unprecedented and its effects will be far reaching," the complaint says. "Given the vast scale of the project and the ease with which this system facilitates contracting out, UC medical centers can virtually instantaneously turn any middle-class union-represented job -- ones with health and retirement benefits, paid time off and prospects for career advancement -- into underpaid contingent positions with no benefits, and no security."

The third complaint claims that the university issued a request for proposals asking third-party vendors to provide staff for "a virtually limitless number of positions," mostly involving service workers, across the entire UC system.

"What is important here is that together theses three charges outline in detail ... a radical privatization scheme the university is moving forward with that will fundamentally alter its relationship with its workers," AFSCME spokesman John de los Angeles said.

This will be the fifth systemwide strike organized by unions representing UC workers over roughly the past year focused on wages, benefits and alleged violations of state law by the university.

A university spokeswoman called the union's claims "a red herring."

"AFSCME's real reason for continual strike activity is to gain leverage in negotiations, at which they have failed time and again," UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said. "In fact, UC's agreements with AFSCME bar the university from contracting out solely to save on wages and benefits. Furthermore, UC cannot terminate an employee due to a sub-contracting decision."

The university has met with union leadership 30 times in the past two years, offered all patient care and service workers a 3 percent raise for the next four years and a one-time $2,000 payment to "all eligible employees," Doan said.

UC officials also criticize the union leaders for refusing to bring the university's offers to their membership for a vote.

"Five disruptive strikes since last May -- including three in the past several months -- come at a cost to patients, students and UC communities, while doing nothing to advance negotiations," Doan said. "The way to a deal is at the bargaining table, not on the picket lines."

The last statewide UC strike was organized by members of the University Professional and Technical Employees CWA 9119 in late March over wages and outsourcing.

"Sadly, the university continues to deny the legitimacy of these issues, but we are experiencing wider support from the public," AFSCME's spokesman de los Angeles said, noting that presidential hopeful Julian Castro is expected to join workers on the picket line at the UCSF strike Thursday.

Picket lines are also expected at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA and UCSD. Union members are also expected to show up in force at Thursday's UC Board of Regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay.

AFSCME represents several different types of UC workers, including security guards, groundskeepers, cooks, custodians, truck drivers, nurse aids, respiratory therapists and radiology techs, among others.

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