The Coalition of University Employees and the University Council-American Federation of Teachers will begin a systemwide strike this week after recent negotiations with the University of California failed.
C.U.E., representing approximately 800 UCSB clerical workers including library assistants, cashiers, public safety dispatchers and childcare teachers, will strike today through Wednesday. UC-AFT, representing about 250 lecturers, will strike alongside C.U.E. on Monday and Tuesday in a systemwide strike planned at all UC campuses. C.U.E. members have worked without a contract since November 2001 and UC-AFT members have worked without a contract since June 30, 2000.
“We regret the union’s decision to ask our employees to engage in this type of action,” UC President Richard Atkinson said in a statement concerning calls to strike at UC Berkeley on Aug. 26. “We have made significant compromises throughout the 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 has not commented on the latest round of strikes.
C.U.E. says it did not coerce members into striking. 319 of C.U.E.’s estimated 400 voting members voted in favor of striking at UC Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Riverside. C.U.E. announced that 90 percent of voting C.U.E. members at UCSB voted in favor of the strike with 88 percent of C.U.E. employees participating in the vote.
According to C.U.E., both unions have dealt with bad-faith bargaining by the UC, allegations that delayed new contracts for the unions and led them to file complaints with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
C.U.E.’s Local President Debbie Ceder said C.U.E. has filed over 30 unfair labor practice complaints against the University, and that in many of the cases PERB has already decided in their favor. C.U.E.’s complaints to PERB include the University’s alleged failure to provide required information to the union and bad-faith bargaining. UC’s alleged engagement in unfair labor practices is C.U.E.’s motivating factor for this week’s strikes, she said.
“I think what we need to get clear [is] what our goal in the strike is,” Ceder said. “The goal is not to try to change the University’s position at the bargaining table. We feel that they have room to move and that they will move, but that they need a little pressure to get there. That’s not what this is all about necessarily. The unfair labor practices that they’ve been engaging in have caused the negotiations to be stalled. We’ve been negotiating for 16 months or more.”
UC-AFT’s decision to strike was based on similar reasons.
“[The] strike is in response to the UC’s unfair labor practices,” UC-AFT field representative Allegra Heidelinde said. “The story behind the strike is the dismal and pervasive disrespect and utter disregard bordering on contempt that the UC seems to demonstrate toward its employees.”
UC-AFT filed several unfair labor practice complaints with PERB, two of which have been certified by PERB and providing legality to the strike, Heidelinde said. One accusation stated that the UC has repeatedly brought representatives to the bargaining table without the proper authority to make decisions, a problem that has frequently stalled negotiations.
UC denies that it has participated in bad-faith bargaining.
“UC has bargained in good faith throughout these negotiations in an effort to reach a fair and equitable settlement and is therefore confident that C.U.E. cannot establish bad-faith bargaining,” a special employee bulletin released by the University on Aug. 20 stated.
As C.U.E. continues to charge UC with bad-faith bargaining, UC upholds its claim that it has consistently provided C.U.E.’s clerical workers with the best contract that state funding allows, in light of the current budget deficit and that C.U.E. and UC-AFT are using the strike as a bargaining tactic.
“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 states.
As the lecturers and clerical workers prepare to strike, many UC campuses are preparing for modifications in possible understaffed offices and suspended classes.
“We know that at student health they have been deferring anything but urgent care until after the strike,” Vice Chancellor for Public Affair Paul Desruisseaux said. “The child care center does not expect to operate [during strike days] and parents were notified.”
C.U.E., anticipating a large member turnout at the strike, expects that some administrative offices will not be able to operate normally.
“I think many offices will be understaffed,” Ceder said. “I think some of them will be so understaffed that they will have to close down.”
Furthermore, representatives of UC-AFT helped lecturers cancel classes and to honor the picket line, with the expectation that many students and graduate students will be doing the same, Ceder said.
The United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing 10,000 academic student employees including TAs, tutors, readers and others at 8 campuses of the University of California, has encouraged its members to support C.U.E. and UC-AFT by canceling classes and even going to the picket lines.
“We strongly encourage UAW Local 2895 members at the UC Santa Barbara campus to respect C.U.E. and UC-AFT’s picket lines the week beginning Oct. 14,” UAW Local President Dan Lawson said in an e-mail to members. “This means we don’t perform any of our assigned work duties including teaching, consulting with students about classwork, and e-mailing or posting assignments.”
Lawson said UAW Local 2865 is supporting C.U.E. and UC-AFT because of UAW’s past experiences in bargaining with the University.
“Our own experience during the last round of negotiations taught us that the UC administration uses all kinds of delay and other illegal tactics to deny its employees their right to a democratic say in their working conditions,” he said. “The fight of UC’s clericals and lecturers for a fair say in their working conditions is our own. We are preparing for our own contract fight this year, and our upcoming negotiations highlight the need to support our co-workers in C.U.E. and UC-AFT in their struggle to make UC bargain in good faith and meet all their legal and collective bargaining obligations.”