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Saturday, May 17, 2008

UC Workers to Take Strike Vote Next Week

Food service workers celebrated in Woodland yesterday their victory from last month when the university announced they will become fully employed UC workers. This marked the culmination of over a year long battle by the food service workers that captured much of the imagination of the Davis community.

Meanwhile on a statewide front, the combination of budget cuts but also cost-cutting activites by the UCs statewide has led medical and service workers to take a strike vote in an attempt to resolve differences in their contract battle.

Last week the UC workers declared that they had reached impasse in their ten month old salary talks. According to a press release they will take a strike vote in a vote that runs from May 17, 2008 until May 22, 2008.

These workers are primarily medical and service workers that have been trying to protect quality patient care. They report that the lack of competitive wages are impacting the University's ability to retain its best staff. The 20,000 patient care and service workers do everything from assisting in surgery to cleaning campus dorms.

According to their release:
"UC medical centers are bleeding experienced patient care staff to other hospitals where pay is dramatically higher, and campus service workers live in poverty with wages as low as $10 per hour. Other hospitals and California’s community colleges pay an average of 25% higher for the same work."
"At UC hospitals, healthcare workers report that lack of competitive pay is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps. They are concerned this is compromising patient care and increasing the risk of complications. For service staff at the campuses and hospitals, wages are low enough for workers to qualify for public assistance. Many live in poverty and are forced to work two jobs, taking time away from their families and communities."
Workers have been negotiating for equal pay for equal work since August, 2007. However, according to the workers, UC Executives fell far short of that, forcing the 20,000 to take a strike vote.

Lakesha Harrison, Licensed Vocational Nurse & President of AFSCME Local 3299:
“This is a matter of priorities. UC Executives need to ensure UC keeps its best staff by paying equal pay for equal work. UC is losing good people to other hospitals where pay is about 25% higher, we are concerned this is causing staffing shortages and over-reliance on temps. That’s not the kind of patient care people expect from UC.”
Per the press the release, the CA State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers’ labor agreement, this is a matter of priorities, rather than resources.
“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.”
---Doug Paul Davis reporting