The union of service workers employed by the University of California announced Monday that they will strike April 14 if their wage-increase demands are not met.
Faith Raider, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said the union’s 3299 chapter is threatening to strike because of UC’s unfair bargaining practices with regard to wages. The chapter represents about 7,300 custodians, food service workers and nursing and medical assistants at UC. According to a press release from the union, there were contract negotiation disputes with the University over issues like workload and worker rights.
According to a Monday press release, Jose Lara, a UCLA food service worker, said the strike demonstrates the seriousness of the union’s demands.
“We have decided to take this measured step to send UC a strong message that we are serious about our demands, without causing long-term disruption to students and others who use campus services,” Lara said. “If UC does not change its position, we will take additional militant actions that may cause more service disruption.”
UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said AFSCME is asking for too much money. He said the University will not yield to the union’s excessive wage increase requests, and the possibility of a strike will not influence current negotiations.
“The amount is unreasonable,” he said. “They’re demanding a raise for every six months over a three-year period, which amounts to a 20 percent increase. The funding would amount to $36 million.”
Each UC campus would have to hire temporary replacements during the strike, but the University hopes to eventually reach a compromise with the union, Van Nyhuis said.
But Raider said the University’s unfair bargaining practices, not wages, is the main cause of dispute between the union and UC.
“A bigger issue is that the University will only agree with raises if they are conditional,” she said. “We haven’t had raises for the last two years and may not for another three or four years.”
According to the press release, the union said it has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the University for withholding information from service workers.
Raider would not disclose how many Local 3299 workers attended the union’s mid-March meeting to vote to strike, but she said 92 percent of those attending approved the action.
“The workers are very angry and motivated to send the University a message,” she said. “While generally we do not release the numbers of how many [workers] voted, I can say we were very happy with the turnout.”
The contract currently being negotiated expired June 30, 2004 and was extended to Jan. 31, 2005, according to the release. The two sides have met 27 times since July 2004, but negotiations broke down and both parties are currently working through state-mandated mediation.