Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin

Owned and Published by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council, official councils of the AFL-CIO


UC Davis optometrists hold labor walkout

By Sheri Williams

In early February, optometrists at University of California planned to hold an unfair labor practices strike to bring attention to stalled contract negotiations.

“UC’s bad-faith tactics and refusal to provide us with information in a timely manner makes a mockery of true negotiations. These delay tactics have a cost: optometrists are leaving, and our patients are suffering,” said UPTE union member Lauren Guajardo on social media. Guajardo is an optometrist at UC Davis.

At the time of publication, UPTE, the University Professional and Technical Employees union, was organizing for a two-day action across all UC campuses.

“The University of California undervalues optometrists and fails to meet market salaries, leading to staff departures, hiring challenges, and longer patient wait times,” the union said in a statement.

UPTE has been attempting to negotiate a new contract for more than a year, according to the statement. But those negotiations have failed to lead to an acceptable offer.

“Its unfair labor practices include failure to provide the information optometrists need to negotiate, refusing to bargain over individual optometrists’ placement on a step schedule, and making predictably unacceptable proposals,” the union said. “UC’s bad-faith bargaining violates the State of California’s Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act.”

Now, UPTE’s bargaining team has been authorized to call a strike and compel the University of California to bargain in good faith.

An unfair labor practice (ULP) strike refers to a work stoppage to protest an employer’s unlawful actions, particularly when the employer commits unfair labor practices like refusing to bargain in good faith, delaying negotiations, making predictably unacceptable proposals, refusing to bargain over workers’ core issues and failing and refusing to provide information that the union needs for negotiations. Strikers’ jobs are legally protected; we are entitled to return to work when the strike ends, the union said.

After members authorized the bargaining team to call a strike to protest UC’s bad-faith bargaining, the team set the date and duration of the work stoppage.

“After moving to UCSF for my pediatric optometrist dream job, I’ve worked with a fantastic team. However, six months in, I see that our optometry compensation doesn’t match the local market or Bay Area living costs. UC has succeeded in hiring excellent optometrists, but we can’t retain new hires. UC is bargaining in bad faith and acting as if they want to prevent an agreement. We must send management a message that we deserve better; we insist they bargain in good faith,” said Olivia Bass, an optometrist at UC San Francisco, on social media.

University Professional and Technical Employees CWA Local 9119 (UPTE-CWA 9119) was founded in 1990 by a group of employees who believed that University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory workers would benefit from a union to safeguard and expand workers’ rights. In 1993, UPTE members voted to affiliate with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a 700,000-member union in the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States.

In 1994, 4,000 UC technical employees voted for UPTE representation. In 1996, 3,700 UC research professionals joined them, and in 1997, 2,000 UC healthcare professionals followed suit. UPTE has grown to 18,000 as UC’s Medical Centers have expanded, and we have added new titles to all of our bargaining units.

Part-time faculty at Butte College, College of the Sequoias, and Mt. San Jacinto College and Skilled Trades workers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are also covered by UPTE contracts. Employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have built an UPTE chapter, and the Society of Professionals, Scientists, and Engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab is also affiliated with UPTE.