Health & Medicine

Here’s when 39,000 UC workers plan their 5th walkout. This time, it’s over outsourcing

UC Davis Medical Center workers explain why they are on strike

UC Davis Medical Center workers and their supporters strike outside the hospital for better wage increases and job security as part of a statewide strike on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.
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UC Davis Medical Center workers and their supporters strike outside the hospital for better wage increases and job security as part of a statewide strike on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

Two unions representing 39,000 workers at the University of California announced Monday they plan a system-wide walkout May 16 to protest the UC’s unilateral decisions to outsource tens of millions of dollars in work that should be performed by their members.

AFSCME 3299 and UPTE-CWA 9119 said they have asked the state’s top labor panel, the Public Employment Relations Board, to force UC leaders to bargain in good faith.

For months, UPTE-CWA members have voiced job security concerns over a UC Davis Health plan to team up with Kindred Healthcare to build an in-patient rehabilitation hospital at the Aggie Square development in Sacramento. In complaints filed in late April, the union said it has since learned the UC system has outsourcing contracts that will put many more workers’ jobs in peril.

“First we learned about the Rehab Hospital ... where UC ... is refusing to bargain, and longtime UC employees will be forced to re-apply for their current jobs with the new company, losing their UC pay and benefits, or be reassigned elsewhere at UC Davis outside the areas of their specialties,” UPTE-CWA leaders stated in a web post to their members. “Then we learned about their plan to outsource $56 million in IT services across all 5 UC Medical Centers, including UPTE members’ work. Just weeks ago we discovered a plan authorizing the outsourcing of more than $150 million of clinical, nonclinical, and IT jobs at the Medical Centers.”

UC spokesperson Claire Doan, in a written statement, said union leaders are spreading false information about contracting out and job displacement, even though they have enjoyed substantial union growth system-wide and explicit protections on service contracts.

She cited examples of job and wage growth for AFSCME-represented employees, noting that he union’s membership has grown by 17 percent from 2013 to 2018 and earnings have increased by an average of 21 percent during that period.

“UC’s contracts with AFSCME bar the university from contracting out for the sole purpose of saving on wages and benefits,” Doan stated. “UC also can’t lay off any AFSCME-represented employee because of a service contract. We are not looking to change those prohibitions.”

The UC has offered to give AFSCME leaders greater input in contracting decisions through a joint union-management committee, she added, but they rejected the offer.

Union leaders point to an August 2017 report from the California State Auditor which found the University of California, Davis, and other UC campuses have used outsourcing to minimize hiring new employees. They see the UC Davis rehab hospital as a perpetuation of this trend.

The auditor also found that many UC contractors paid wages far below the university minimum wage and did not offer comparable benefits. Through outsourcing, AFSCME leaders have said, the university is basically helping to lower the prevailing market wages used as a barometer for how well AFSCME members and other employees are paid.

The upcoming one-day strike will be the fifth job action the unions have organized against the UC in the last 12 months. The UC and union bargaining teams have been negotiating for two years, and contracts expired a little more than a year ago. Both unions have rejected offers of 3 percent annual increases in wages.

The University Professional and Technical Employees 9119, a unit of Communication Workers of America, represents roughly 5,000 health care workers, 5,000 researchers and 5,000 technical workers, and about 2,700 of those workers have positions on the UC Davis campus and medical center. Their occupations include art therapists, case managers, audiologists, animal technicians, lab assistants, art models and pharmacists on the UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.

They work alongside members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 members who occupy service and patient-care jobs such as admitting clerks, anesthesia technicians, MRI technologists, cooks, gardeners and security guards.

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