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UCSB Custodial Workers Plan One-Day Strike Over Labor Negotiations

Hundreds of bathrooms at UC Santa Barbara were especially well stocked with toilet paper this week ahead of a planned one-day union strike of custodial workers Wednesday.

UCSB officials were unsure Tuesday how many of the campus’ 150 dues-paying members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) would clock into work following failed yearlong contract negotiations between union representatives and UC System officials.

Local university service employees were set to strike Wednesday with thousands of fellow custodial and UC patient care workers at the nine other UC System campuses and medical centers.

AFSCME, which represents nearly 13,000 UC patient care workers and 8,300 service employees, has asked its members to strike in response to union concerns over multiyear wages and health-care and pension benefits.

In protest, custodial and student health center workers were expected to picket for their cause.

UCSB Assistant Custodial Superintendent Maria Pizano said any custodial staff at work Wednesday would focus cleanup efforts mainly on campus restrooms, making sure toilet paper and paper towels were available in the hundreds of bathrooms.

Pizano confirmed the large number of union custodial workers, and said UCSB couldn't legally ask employees whether they planned to play hooky.

She also said the campus community is aware of the planned strike, which is set to last one day — at least initially.

“We don’t know how many people are going to show up to work, so we’re going to try to do as much as we can,” Pizano said. “We don’t even know if we’ll have any.”

The UC System released a statement Tuesday asking AFSCME to call off the strike, noting its continued willingness to go back to the bargaining table to reach a long-term contract.

The university has proposed several packages that showed significant movement in response to the union's concerns and offered multiyear wage increases, affordable health care and quality pension benefits — all so far rejected by AFSCME, according to Shelly Meron, a spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.

In preparation for the strike, Meron said, UC is executing plans to ensure that all medical facilities stay open and that patient care is not negatively impacted. 

“We don’t think striking is the answer,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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