The gears of the University of California’s internal machinery will soon come screeching to a halt.
Members of UC Santa Barbara’s Coalition of University Employees recently voted in favor of a strike. Information obtained by the Daily Nexus stated that CUE has called for a clerical workers strike on Oct. 14, 15 and 16. Clerical workers at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz also voted in favor of striking. The announcement comes after nearly a year of bargaining and bickering between CUE and the University. Neither side has escaped unscathed. The two parties have filed complaints against each other with the California Labor Board.
CUE announced Friday that 90 percent of voting CUE members at UCSB voted in favor of the strike. 88 percent of CUE employees participated in the vote.
A Special Employee Bulletin from the UC Office of the President, released Aug. 20, encourages employees not to strike. It assures them they cannot be punished for refusing to participate, but that if CUE strikes illegally and they take part, disciplinary action will be taken.
“A strike is not necessary. The union is threatening a strike in an attempt to put pressure on UC in the hope that the University will change some of its positions, especially on pay,” the bulletin stated.
The bulletin also states that striking at this time would be illegal.
Under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act, if the University and CUE are unable to reach an agreement in bargaining sessions, either party may declare that an impasse has occurred. If the impasse is confirmed by the state, both parties must begin mediation with a state mediator. CUE cannot legally strike unless impasse is declared or if unfair labor practices have occurred.
CUE field representative Gabriel Cohn said the union is planning to strike because the University has practiced unfair bargaining tactics. CUE has accused UC of bad-faith bargaining, including regressive bargaining, withholding information vital to bargaining and limiting union access to employees.
“Offers regarding wages were offered and then decreased,” Cohn said. “In the contract it says representatives can talk to people on their own time, but the University has been trying to limit that. They’ve kicked me out of departments, won’t let us put fliers in mailboxes and interrupted meetings on people’s break time.”
Cohn said CUE has filed 21 complaints for unfair labor practices to the labor board this year.
The University says it has not bargained in bad faith and has made a counter claim against CUE to the labor board.
“UC has bargained in good faith throughout these negotiations in an effort to reach a fair and equitable settlement and is, therefore, confident that CUE cannot establish bad faith bargaining,” the bulletin states.
Cohn said CUE would not be planning to strike if UC was bargaining fairly.
“The easiest way to prevent the strike is to stop the unfair labor practices they’ve been committing,” Cohn said. “Then we wouldn’t have a basis for striking. They haven’t really shown that much willingness to do that yet.”
The previous contract with the UC was set to expire in Sept. 2001 but was extended until Nov. 2001. CUE members have been working without a contract ever since.
“They send representatives to the bargaining table who have no authority to make decisions,” Cohn said. “They have to report back to the administrators and it can take a few months. It stalls the process.”
Bargaining over contracts has stalled on several issues including wage increases and parking.
UC has offered a 1.5 percent salary increase to CUE for this academic year. CUE is asking a 15 percent increase over a two year period.
“The University continues to offer both the lecturers’ union and the clericals’ union the best wage proposals it can, given the limited state funding it is receiving due to the current budget deficit. We are also working hard in our negotiations with both unions, but of course, contract settlement requires compromise from both parties, not just the University. We remain hopeful a resolution is near,” UC President Richard Atkinson said in a statement concerning the strikes at Berkeley in August.
UC Office of the President has not commented on the latest round of possible strikes.