By Sheri Williams
More than 50,000 healthcare workers from three unions have announced they are united for a strike in early May against the University of California.
Nurses, medical technicians, research workers and others plan on walking out of all University of California medical campuses from May 7 to May 9 in solidarity with the members of AFSCME 3299, which has been unable to negotiate a fair contract with the University.
In Sacramento, about 10,000 workers plan on striking the University of California, Davis, both at the main campus and at the Sacramento-based medical facility.
“We’ve bargained in good faith for over a year to address the widening income, racial, and gender disparities that frontline, low-wage workers at the University of California are living every day,” AFSCME 3299 president Kathryn Lybarger said. “Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them, leaving workers no option but to strike.”
Along with AFSCME, members of the California Nurses Association and University Professional and Technical Employees – CWA will walk out in solidarity. CNA represents about 14,000 nurses, and UPTE-CWA represents about 15,000 health-care, research and technical workers.
“UC Davis Medical Center nurses support our fellow UC workers in their demands for a strong contract and justice in the workplace,” said UCD Health registered nurse Melissa Johnson-Camacho in a statement. “As nurses, we know that in order to provide the safe patient care our communities need, we count on our co-workers, and they count on us.”
AFSCME 3299 represents about 24,000 patient-care and service workers. Along with fair pay and working conditions, the union is seeking to stop the University from contracting out jobs for which its members are trained.
With contract negotiations and post-impasse mediation procedures being exhausted after a year of bargaining, AFSCME Local 3299 represented workers at the University of California voted with 97 percent approval to authorize a system-wide strike in April.
“We’ve negotiated in good faith with UC for over a year now,” said Oscar Rubio, a Food Service Worker at UCLA and Vice President of AFSCME Local 3299’s Service Unit, in a statement. “Instead of working with us to address issues of widening inequality and outsourcing, UC’s administrators are pushing proposals that will only make things worse.”
The strike authorization came just two weeks after massive protests of unequal treatment for working women of color at the University of California ended with 18 arrests in Los Angeles on the 50th death anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. The protests were a direct response to the release of a new study that revealed worsening income, racial, and gender disparities amongst UC’s workforce, including those working directly for UC and those working under contract.