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Friday, February 29, 2008

UC Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against AFSCME

The California Aggie yesterday reported that UC has filed an unfair labor practice charge against AFSCME 3299 for "violation of agreed-upon reasonable access policies."

According to the spokesperson for UC:
"Leaflet distribution is allowed, however, the union has agreed to abide by UC's access policies, and they violated that agreement."
According to the article, this is in violation of their access policy contract:
The specific clause that the union is being charged with violating is under general provision of Article 1 in the access policies contract which states "AFSCME will abide by the reasonable access rules and regulations promulgated at each campus/laboratory."
Meanwhile the union not surprisingly is questioning those charges and arguing that UC is attempting to violate their first amendment right to free speech.

Leticia Garcia-Prado, a UCD Med Center worker questioned the charge.
"AFSCME began leafleting on Jan. 15 and continued for three weeks with no problems until Feb. 5, when UCSF police told our leafleters that they would be arrested if they did not stop... On the same day, UCLA told our leafleters that they had to move to a location two buildings away from the Medical Center's front doors,"
Moreover she asserted that these actions constituted an infringement of the first amendment right to free speech.
"Our right to leaflet the public is a fundamental free speech right... [The leaflets contained] information regarding staff turnover in some medical center departments, use of temporary staff in some departments, high-stress work environments and low-morale caused by being paid wages that are less than at other area hospitals."
Does UC have a point here or are they merely trying to throw up roadblocks to the union at a time when they are stepping up their efforts to pressure UC on a campus-wide basis. The courts have been pretty consistent about ruling in favor of access for unions as a matter of freedom of speech and they have consistently held that unions have the right to gain access to their members at their place of work. A fundamental protection, without which, would make it extremely difficult for unions to organize workers.

Meanwhile, the impasse continues on UC contracts and yesterday marked a day with large rallies and protests in Sacramento in front of the UC Med Center.

According to a release from AFSCME 3299:
"The contracts for over 20,000 essential healthcare and service workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 have expired. The members of AFSCME Local 3299 are concerned with the ongoing direction of the University and how it is affecting their ability to provide the highest quality patient care and student services

AFSCME Local 3299 members believe that below-market wages, expensive benefits and the failure to implement a step system have created recruitment and retention problems, which have resulted in a less-expensive workforce, reliance on temporary workers in some departments and heavy workloads for essential patient care workers at UC’s five medical centers. Wages in many classifications are 25% to 30% below workers doing the same jobs at other leading hospitals in the state. On UC’s campuses, low wages and unaffordable benefits have led to service cuts for students and faculty and have created a workforce that struggles to make ends meet for their families."
On the UC Davis campus, roughly 30 workers and supporters rallied with picket signs and began to leaflet at the Memorial Union in an attempt to educate students and faculty on their struggle.

The fliers read:
"You can ensure quality student services and direct UC jobs and a fair contract for workers."
In the meantime it seems clear the university and UC will do whatever it can to throw up roadblocks to the efforts of workers who seek decent wages and affordable health care benefits. The fact that UC is a public agency makes their tactics all the more troubling. The insulation of UC which receives large quantities of public money is troubling. There is a lack of accountability to the taxpayers of California in terms of the policy directions they go.

In the meantime, it is our hope that UC will not continue to try to solve its budget problems on the backs of its lowest paid workers while executives and administrators receive $200,000 to $300,000 per year, sometimes higher.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting