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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Former President Clinton and Former California Speaker Nunez Stand Behind the UC Workers

In January, Former President Bill Clinton stood at UC Davis with the Sodexho Workers and pledged his support for their efforts to become UC employees. Now, over four months later, the Sodexho Workers are on their way to become UC employees, but their fellow UC employees are about to go on strike.

Both Former President Clinton and Former California Speaker Fabian Nunez have been scheduled to be graduation speakers at UCLA and UC Davis respectively. However, if the UC workers are on strike at that time, both have pledged not to cross the picket line and not speak at graduation.

In a letter from AFSCME president Lakeesha Harrison:
"Former President Bill Clinton and and Speaker Emeritus Núñez, scheduled to speak at UC Graduations at UCLA and UC Davis, have committed not to speak at any UC Campus unless a fair contract settlement is reached."
A month ago, independent state appointed fact finder Carol Vendrillo agreed that UC executives could meet workers contract demands.
“It is not the lack of state funding but the University’s priorities that leaves the service workers’ wages at the bottom of the list... U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source.”
A stunning statistic that has come forward:
Medical centers are losing experienced patient care staff to other hospitals where pay is dramatically higher, and UC service workers make poverty wages as low as $10 per hour. Other CA hospitals and community colleges pay average of 25% more than UC.

96% of UC service workers are income eligible for public assistance programs including: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch.
Last week the UC service workers voted by overwhelming margins to strike. This week they have found powerful new allies in the former President and former Speaker of the Assembly.

Unless there is a good faith effort to go back to the bargaining table, the strike will occur on June 4 and June 5. Lakesha Harrison said:
"No one wants to strike, but UC Executives need to make a shift and prioritize providing enough to protect quality patient care and support our families. No one wants to get rich, we just want equal pay for equal work. UC is losing quality staff that we train to those other institutions that pay 25% higher, and many of us are living in poverty."
Some have questioned a strike during a time of budget crisis and UC-wide cutbacks. However, those arguments miss a key point on the revenue sources. State funds comprise less than 10 percent of the funding for the 20,000 patient care and service workers. The majority of the funding is immune to economic downturn and budget crisis. It comes from the UC hospitals. The UC hospitals posted profits of over $350 million last year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting