Health & Medicine

3 unions, 53,000 workers to strike at UC hospitals, campuses in May

The Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center houses the medical center's Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.
The Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center houses the medical center's Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.

Roughly 53,000 health-care, service, technical and research workers are uniting to strike at all University of California locations May 7-9, as nurses and other health-care professionals join the labor action initiated by UC service and patient-care workers.

About 10,000 of the 53,000 workers represented in the strike work for the University of California, Davis, on its campus or in its medical center. The unions and the UC will negotiate the number of workers needed to ensure that hospitals can continue to serve patients during the strike.

“UC Davis Medical Center nurses support our fellow UC workers in their demands for a strong contract and justice in the workplace," said UCD Health registered nurse Melissa Johnson-Camacho, in a news release Friday by the California Nurses Association. "As nurses, we know that in order to provide the safe patient care our communities need, we count on our co-workers, and they count on us.”

The 24,000 patient-care and service workers, represented by AFSCME 3299, rejected the university's last-and-best offer of 3 percent across-the-board wage increases and a prorated, lump-sum payment of $750. AFSCME 3299 negotiators have sought wage increases of 6 percent, a freeze on health-care premiums and job security that eliminates contracting out jobs for which its members are trained.

AFSCME said it estimated that UC Davis alone has spent more than $22 million to hire independent contractors to do work that its membership already are trained to do. Independent contractors typically receive lower pay for doing the same work as AFSCME members, AFSCME leaders say, and that depresses the market wages that the UC reviews when it considers wage increases.

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Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said 6 percent raises would be double what the university has given other employees. She added that the UC’s contract with AFSCME service employees permits the university to sub-contract existing service work except if the sole reason for doing so is to save money on employee wages and benefits. The university is also prohibited from laying off AFSCME-represented employees as a result of a subcontracting decision.

The UC has implemented what it calls a Fair Wage/Fair Work plan, mandating that university employees working at least 20 hours a week be paid at least $15 an hour, but the California State Auditor noted in an audit released last year that a number of contractors do not adhere to that policy.

Three major unions have authorized picketing: the 24,000 employees represented by AFSCME 3299, the California Nurses Association with its 14,000 nurses, and about 15,000 health-care, research and technical workers in the University Professional and Technical Employees-CWA union. The UC employed roughly 223,400 people in October 2017, according to data from the UC Infocenter.

AFSCME 3299's membership includes respiratory therapists and surgical technicians in its health care unit and custodians and groundskeepers in its service unit. UPTE has case managers, physical therapists and pharmacists among its ranks. All thee unions have been locked in lengthy negotiations with the UC. Besides wages, their memberships have expressed concerns about patient care and a proposal by UC leadership to establish a 401k-style pension for new hires rather than maintaining the traditional pension.

CNA officials said their nurses will join pickets May 8-9 and UPTE-CWA Local Davis Vice President Greg Wine said his union membership would join on those dates as well.

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