Health & Medicine

Picket line forms at UC Davis Med Center as three-day strike begins across UC system

More than 300 hospital workers and members of AFSCME 3299, which represents workers at UC Davis and its medical center, formed a picket line as a three-day strike began at the medical center in Sacramento on Monday, protesting the stagnating contract negotiations with the University of California.

They joined the more than 53,000 health care, service, technical and research workers who are striking across all 10 UC campuses.

The strike will continue through Wednesday, with members of the California Nurses Association and University Professional and Technical Employees-CWA joining in a sympathy strike Tuesday and Wednesday. AFSCME 3299 represents 24,000 workers across the UC system, including medical assistants, respiratory therapists, health care unit workers, custodians and groundskeepers in its service unit.

Strikers joined the picket line at 6 a.m., wearing green T-shirts saying “We run UC.” At 11 a.m., strikers marched through the medical center campus and into the intersection at Stockton Boulevard and 42nd Street, stopping traffic for about five minutes. Strikers chanted “Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are. So we tell them, we are the union, the mighty mighty union.”

Drivers honked at the strikers and several cars turned around to avoid the intersection.

Portable toilets had not been delivered to the picket line by noon Monday, and strikers were not allowed to use the bathrooms at Shriners Hospitals for Children and the medical center, said Beverly Navarrette, a surgical technologist at the Children’s Surgery Center.

Michelle Castillo, a medical office services coordinator at the UC Davis Cancer Center, said she arrived at 6 a.m. to participate in the strike.

“Our contract is overdue,” she said.

Meanwhile in Southern California, at the picket line at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, an SUV slowly drove through a crowd of protesters blocking a street outside the medical center, according to the Associated Press. No injuries were reported.

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After more than a year of negotiations, the 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 leaders are demanding a nearly 20 percent raise over three years – twice what other UC employees have received," the UC said in a statement. "Labor is the largest single expense in the UC's budget, and AFSCME service workers are already paid at or above market rates."

The UC is implementing a 2 percent pay increase after AFSCME 3299 rejected the previous offer of 3 percent, according to the UC statement.

"What we're out here striking for is to raise the issue of inequality in the university," said Liz Perlman, executive director of AFSCME 3299. "All the people who are on the strike line today are people of color, largely immigrants. And they're asking for basic fairness and to ensure that the inequality they see at the university doesn't lead to further outsourcing of their jobs."

Castillo said she’s striking because her office is understaffed and the UC has cut back the amount of overtime employees can work.

Rising health care premiums and limited retirement plan choices for future workers are also big issues of concern, she said.

Castillo said she will not receive $700 in pay over three days for striking.

AFSCME 3299 union members receive $70 per day in hardship funds, a spokesman said.

The medical center and emergency room will remain open during the strike. Toby Marsh, chief nursing officer at UC Davis Medical Center, said 78 percent of the staff came to work this morning.

The university had a 10-day notice of the strike and rescheduled procedures for the week after the strike, Marsh said. More than 750 patient procedures were moved.

Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1176, @SullivanMollyM

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