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UCSB Employees Join System-wide Strike Citing Pay Disparities

Three-day walkout comes after impasse in contract negotiations between UC system and AFSCME Local 3299 employee union

Employee strike at UCSB Click to view larger
UC Santa Barbara employees rally at Storke Tower Monday as part of a three-day strike at University of California campuses and medical centers.  (Lisa Osborn / KCSB News photo)

A group of UC Santa Barbara employees formed a picket line and rallied at Storke Tower Monday as part of a three-day strike happening at University of California campuses and medical centers.

The strike is organized by the AFSCME Local 3299 union, which represents about 25,000 employees, including service workers and patient-care technical workers, in the UC system.

According to the union, workers last week voted to authorize a strike, in response to an impasse in contract negotiations with the UC system.

At UCSB, striking employees planned to have a picket line at Storke Tower all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and additional people at the Henley Gate (at the Highway 217 entrance) and dining commons.

Groundskeeper lead Juan Donato, who has worked at UCSB for seven years, was one of the striking employees who had been on campus picketing since 5 a.m., and planned to stay until 5 p.m. Monday, he said.

The striking employees want the UC system to address income inequality issues, he said.

“We want protection for women, we want protection for people of color, we want protection for Latinos, and we want protection from outsourcing for jobs," he told Noozhawk. 

Many of his co-workers are also striking, he said. 

“It feels like we matter, that we support each other, we share the same feelings and emotions and (it shows) they care for justice, they care for freedom — the freedom to provide for their families and to enjoy their families,” Donato said. 

“It’s clear that without a struggle, ther​e is no progress, so here we are.” 

The UCSB campus is open and operating during the strike, said Andrea Estrada of the Public Affairs Office. 

The union said in a statement that University of California system administrators said last week “that they would unilaterally impose contract terms on AFSCME represented service workers across the UC system that would delay the retirement age by another five years, leave employee wages trailing below the cost of living, continue the outsourcing of jobs, and permit UC to raise health-care premiums.”

The union also sites an internal study that found income inequalities among UC system employees based on race and gender. 

​AFSCME Local 3299 also authorized sympathy strikes this week, including its represented patient care workers, UC system nurses represented by the California Nurses Association, and technical workers represented by the University Professional and Technical Employees, according to the union. 

State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher wrote a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano, dated May 4, that asked the UC system to conduct good faith negotiations with the union and address racial and gender income inequalities among employees. 

The letter was signed by another 24 members of the State Assembly, including District 27 Assemblywoman Monique Limón.

She also released a statement on the strike Monday. 

“As a former University of California (UC) employee, I understand the value of negotiating in good faith, and strongly encourage the UC and UC AFSCME service workers to work together to achieve a fair and mutually beneficial outcome,” she said. 

The UC Office of the President released a statement on the strike Monday: 

“​AFSCME leaders are demanding a nearly 20 percent pay raise over three years — twice what other UC employees have received. The university cannot justify to taxpayers such an excessive raise, no matter how much we appreciate our service workers, which include custodians, gardeners, food service workers and maintenance staff. Labor is the largest single expense in UC’s budget, and AFSCME service workers are already paid at or above market rates.  

“​UC feels that it is highly inappropriate that AFSCME is now using a strike as a negotiating tactic. This is after union leaders rejected, without conducting a vote among their members, UC’s proposed multi-year wage increases (3 percent annually for four years) and excellent health and retirement benefits.

“A strike is only hurting the union’s own members who will lose pay for joining this ill-advised three-day walkout, while negatively affecting services to patients and students. A disruptive demonstration will change neither UC’s economic situation nor the university’s position on AFSCME’s unreasonable demands.

“​UC is doing everything in its power to limit the strike’s impact on our campuses and medical centers, while working hard to ensure patients and students receive the services they deserve,” the UC Office of the President statement said.​

 

 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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