The largest employee union at the University of California will get a hearing on its complaints to the state Public Employment Relations Board that UC leaders are engaging in union-busting tactics that violate state law.
The University of California disputes the union allegations that it violated any statutes and said it would address the statements in the proper forum, said Danielle Smith, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President.
AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 24,000 service and patient care workers on UC campuses and hospitals, alleges that the university is stymieing union access to contact information for new employees in violation of AB 119 and discouraging union membership in violation of SB 866.
“They are doing it as negotiations are breaking down at the table once again,” said AFSCME 3299 spokesman John de los Angeles. “The university made its last, best and final offer to our patient care unit. ... I’m not going to say that we’re going to go on strike, but it does appear that our patient care unit is reaching the point where our service unit was last May.”
AFSCME 3299’s 9,000 service workers – primarily low-wage workers such as custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff – went on a three-day strike in May. At the time, the UC’s nurses as well as professional and technical workers also were in protracted contract negotiations with the university system and joined AFSCME 3299 in a sympathy strike that mobilized tens of thousands of workers statewide in picketing.
On Wednesday, at a meeting of the UC board of regents, AFSCME leaders publicly announced that their members would be voting on whether to strike for a second time this year.
De los Angeles said the UC recently made a last, best and final offer to AFSCME 3299’s patient care workers that was similar to the one extended to the union’s service workers last spring. That offer, rejected by service workers, included 3 percent across-the-board wage increases and a prorated, lump-sum payment of $750. AFSCME 3299 had 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.
Outsourcing has been a key sticking point for AFSCME 3299 negotiators, who have pointed to a state auditor’s report showing that a number of contract workers receive lower wages and fewer benefits than UC workers in similar positions. Union leaders say outsourcing also suppresses the prevailing market wages in the salary surveys done to determine wage increases.
The California Nurses Association, which represents 14,000 registered nurses at the UC, recently reached a tentative deal that secured pay increases of at least 15 percent over the five-year term of the contract. In addition, nurses at a number of locations and in certain job classifications will get additional wages that address economic disparities to ensure the UC remains competitive in recruitment and retention of quality, experienced nurses.
De los Angeles said tensions are running high between the UC and AFSCME 3299 members. In one AFSCME complaint, the union includes memos on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling that it said the UC distributed to members without any input from the union. In the other complaint, the union describes longstanding barriers to getting contact information for new UC employees it represents.
In the June 27 Janus ruling, the high court said that, although public employee unions negotiate wage and other benefits for members and nonmembers alike, the unions can collect fees for those services from only members. The decision was widely hailed by labor as an attempt to undermine union financing and thereby the union’s political sway, but plaintiff Mark Janus hailed it as a First Amendment victory for those who did not want to pay for political speech and policy positions they did not believe.
AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said the UC’s leaders are aligning themselves “with shadowy corporate interests that are trying to silence American workers, slash their wages, and outsource their jobs.”
“UC’s actions have breached our trust,” Lybarger said, “and we will take necessary actions to preserve the collective voice of UC workers.”
The union is asking the state board to issue an injunction barring the UC from hindering it from accessing potential members prohibit it from disseminating information that discourages union membership. PERB, a quasi-judicial agency, adjudicates disputes between public employee unions and most public employers. It sent a letter Sept. 14 to AFSCME and UC’s general counsel, telling them that it would schedule a hearing on the matter.