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Monday, July 07, 2008

UC Service Workers To Strike

Last week, 8,500 UC workers announced that they will hold a five-day strike at UC's ten campuses and five medical centers.

According to a release from AFSCME, the union that represents university workers, the strike is for the service workers, however, thousands of medical workers could individually honor the picket lines and not cross it.
"At issue are 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."
11,500 patient care workers have also been in negotiations since August of 2007. At this point, they are not calling for a strike although some may decide not to cross the picket line in solidarity.

Last week the Davis Enterprise quoted Nicole Savickas, a UC human resources communications coordinator:
"The university is disappointed that the union has decided to call for a strike of UC service workers at this time... While UC and AFSCME spent the last few weeks of June bargaining for patient care technical employees, the university has not received a response to its last request (from mid-June) to continue discussions for service employees... We hope that the union will reconsider and join us back at the bargaining table to continue negotiations for new contracts for both our service and patient care technical employees."
However, Leticia Garcia-Prado who works as a medical assistant at Cowell Student Health Center told the Enterprise that the university's latest proposal included no substantive changes from the previous offer.

Workers are particularly upset that the well-paid upper management of the university has been receiving pay increases even as the service workers are locked into low wages. Some may question the timing of these strikes and requests for pay increases during times of budget crisis and economic downturn.

It is important to note that 78 percent of the funding that pays for service worker position does not come from the state's general fund. Instead a large portion of the funding comes directly from revenues generated from UC Hospitals. In 2006, UC Hospitals posted $371 million in profits.

Moreover, 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.”
Meanwhile Union officials have said they will not strike before July 12, 2008.


It is disappointing that it has come to this. The University of California system is the finest public higher education system in the country. They offer many students a world class education for a very affordable price. Unfortunately, they are paying their lowest level employees wages that require many to receive public assistance.

Leticia Garcia-Prado takes home less than $2000 per month in her position as a patient care worker. She is earning this in a community where the median income is more than twice that.

The university is using the state budget as a means to hold up this process. But most of the money for these wages do not come from the state budget. It is time that we move forward as a community and no longer accept the UC system paying its wage earners meager wages.

It took the Sodexho workers a number of years, but they finally this spring forced UC Davis to transition them to university employees. This was a good step forward, but now we need to take it to the next level and pay all university employees a good and fair wage for the excellent service they provide to the university and the community.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is the Vanguard's 1000th post. The Vanguard was first published on July 30, 2006 and since September of 2006 has been publishing at least once daily except during the Thanksgiving Holiday. The Vanguard wishes to thank all of the readers who have been around since the beginning and welcome those who are just joining us.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting