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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Strike Authorized by UC Workers

Yesterday, by an overwhelming majority, UC patient care and service staff voted to strike. The vote which took place between May 17, 2008 and May 22, 2008 showed upwards of 97% vote to authorize a strike. The workers gave UC Executives notice that a strike could begin as soon as June 4th for the 20,000 workers at the University's five hospital/ten campus system. However, the workers, who have been negotiating in good faith since August, still hold hope that a strike can be averted.

Lakesha Harrison, Licensed Vocational Nurse & President of AFSCME 3299 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."
CA State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers' labor agreement, said:
"U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source. It is time for UC to take a broader view of its priorities by honoring the important contribution that service workers make to the U.C. community and compensating them with wages that are in line with the competitive market rate."
According to a release issued on Friday, the central issue is wages. Wages have fallen behind other hospitals including California's community colleges, where workers are paid around 25% on average than UC employees for the same work.
"At UC, patient workers are concerned that lack of competitive pay is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps, compromising patient care as extra time is needed to train the constant flow of new staff. For service workers, wages are as low as $10 an hour, forcing many to work 2-3 jobs or rely on public assistance to meet their families basic needs."
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