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Saturday, July 12, 2008

PERB Trying to Stop UC Strike

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is seeking a court injunction in order to prevent UC service workers from carrying out a five-day strike planned to begin on Monday.

PERB, which is the state agency that oversees collective bargaining for public employees, filed a complaint against AFSCME for allegedly engaging in bad faith bargaining in its negotiations with UC for new contracts for patient care and service workers. According to the complaint, the union failed to give adequate notice of the strike and encourage patient care employees to participate in the service workers' strike despite the fact that their absence presented a danger to public health and safety.

This is just the latest in a string of anti-labor rulings by the board that is filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger appointees. It is composed of five governor-appointed members. PERB acts as a judicial body responsible for administering bargaining statutes for California’s public schools, colleges and universities.

At this time, the union denies the complaint has validity and is moving ahead as though they strike on Monday.

This is the second time that PERB has attempted to stop the UC strike. Back on May 29, 2008, AFSCME rescinded its strike notice after PERB ordered the union to resume negotiations. At that time, the union withdrew its strike notice after PERB announced that it would support UC in seeking a restraining order in the event of a strike. The restraining order would have prevented striking outside UC health centers.

According to AFSCME, these workers receive poverty wages as low as $10 per hour. Many work 2-3 jobs and qualify for public assistance to meet their families’ basic needs. UC wages have fallen dramatically behind other hospitals and California’s community colleges where workers are paid family-sustaining wages that are on average of 25% higher. In addition, when workers have stood up for better lives for their families and better working conditions, the University has retaliated by violating labor laws.
96% of service workers are eligible for at least one of the following forms of public assistance: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies and subsidized child care, creating a potential burden for CA taxpayers. Increasing wages would not only help lift workers out of poverty, but could positively impact CA and the low- and moderate-income areas where UC workers live as they contribute more to their local economy.
California State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers’ labor agreement, found that the university system has the ability to increase pay to these workers.
“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.”
Here is a video, put out by AFSCME that chronicles the conditions that these workers live under.

Follow the Vanguard next week, as we cover the UC Service Workers strike and get exclusive coverage and interviews.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting