Clerical workers with the University of California went on a one-day strike Tuesday to demand what they called fairer negotiations on a new contract and higher pay.
Heavy rain didn’t keep 40 workers – mainly administrative assistants, preschool teachers, police dispatchers, collections employees and library assistants – from demonstrating on the corner near UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and another 40 from marching on the UC Davis main campus in Yolo County.
“We are struggling a lot more now than we have in the past,” said Angel Mesa, as she protested near UC Davis Medical Center wearing a raincoat and toting a sign wrapped in plastic. “Health care and retirement and parking are going up, but the paycheck doesn’t go up.”
Similar gatherings were organized at all UC campuses and medical centers throughout the state, broadening a labor demonstration that began last week at UCLA.
The University of California offered clerical workers an average pay raise of 18 percent over six years, according to a statement from the university. UC officials also offered each employee an additional $1,200 ratification bonus.
“Our proposed wage increases ensure that pay for our clerical staff stays market-competitive, and they are consistent with increases given to other UC represented and non-represented employees,” the statement said.
The Teamsters proposed an average 30 percent raise over six years, according to Jason Rabinowitz, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 2010. He said the UC proposal, which is based on performance, would only benefit 80 percent of the employees. Some would not meet performance goals and others have reached the top of the pay scale in their job category, he said.
“By no means is this our last proposal,” Rabinowitz said. “We are looking to compromise further. We are simply asking the university to come to the table and be fair and be willing to compromise as well.”
The Teamsters reported that 12,000 clerical support workers represented by the union went on strike statewide Tuesday. The pickets closed down intersections and caused delays at all UC campuses and medical centers, according to a press release from the union.
There are about 11,500 UC clerical employees in the Teamsters’ unit, said Ricardo Vazquez, a spokesman for the university system. About 80 percent of those employees showed up for work at UC campuses and medical centers on Tuesday, he said.
There are 1,037 staff members represented by the union on the Davis campus, and an additional 464 at the health system, a total of 1,501.
Fifty-eight of the employees at the medical center took the day off work for the strike, said Claire Holmes, a spokeswoman for the health system.
“The bottom line is the phones are getting answered in a timely manner,” she said. “There has been no disruption for people who are trying to get care.”
The hospital has not canceled surgeries and patients were able to attend their previously scheduled appointments, according to medical center officials. UC Davis officials reported no disruptions on campus.
Locally, the protests were uneventful except when a Teamster representative, leading a group of protesters across a street, was hit by a motorist in Davis near Russell Boulevard. The woman had minor scrapes to her legs but refused treatment, said Andy Fell, a spokesman for UC Davis.
The protesters were slowing traffic down but not blocking it, Fell said.
“It didn’t appear to be an accident,” Fell said, adding that the car drove away after the incident. “Police have the plate number and description and will contact the driver.”
Jenny Hodge, who works at the UC Davis library, said workers have had to take on more work at their jobs after pay cuts and layoffs during the recession. But after the recession, no one was hired back, and workers did not receive any pay raises, she said.
“When we lose a person, instead of hiring someone to replace them, the work was divided between the remaining employees,” she said. “We understood that during the recession, but now we’re out. They have no reason to continue.”
Hodge said the goal of striking was to demand a more serious offer, which would apply to all workers equally. Workers care about doing their jobs right, she said, but they need better treatment in order to do so.
“We love our jobs. We love our school, and we love our students,” Hodge said. “But we need the university to respect us as well.”