Service workers at all nine University of California campuses, five medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory plan to strike today after the nine-month-long negotiation battle between the union and the UC came to a standstill.
Chapter 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union is planning a daylong strike, which will start from today’s morning shift and end after the last shift of the day. The union represents food service workers, janitors, bus drivers and nurses. Vu Nguyen, UCSB’s local organizer of the strike, said the workers would start protesting today at noon in front of Davidson Library.
“We are trying to send a strong statement to UC,” Nguyen said. “We’re asking for the University to show some respect for what we do.”
UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said AFSCME’s demands would cost UC more than $36 million. He said the union is asking for guaranteed, across-the-board increases every six months over a three-year period and a 20 percent salary increase over the next three years.
“The university just doesn’t have the resources to meet with the demands,” Van Nyhuis said. “We are going to need some compromise on behalf of the union.”
UC had previously offered service workers raises over the next several years based upon the budget compact reached between the University and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in May 2004, Van Nyhuis said. However, AFSCME is demanding more than the University can afford, he said.
But Nguyen said the union is asking for a fair pay increase as well as proper training and opportunities for promotion.
“We’re not asking them to empty out their pockets,” he said. “They need to give better opportunities – those folks [service workers] have talents; they can surprise people with what they can do.”
Van Nyhuis said all UC campuses and medical centers have contingency plans in place to help ensure that university operations and services to students and hospital patients will continue with as little disruption as possible.
“We don’t want the strike to happen,” he said. “We don’t feel that it resolves any of the issues.”
Nguyen said the strike is not meant to disrupt the campuses.
“Our goal has never been to shut down the school,” he said. “We understand that students have to go to class.”
After today’s strike, Van Nyhuis said, UC and AFSCME would return to the bargaining table.
“Once the strike is over, we will go back to negotiations and continue to bargain in good faith,” he said.
In a statement released Wednesday, UC said the strike is unlawful and unprotected and shows bad-faith bargaining by the union. Van Nyhuis said rulings by the state Public Employment Relations Board said any strike held before the full bargaining process is finished is presumed to be illegal.
“Any employee that doesn’t have a prearranged absence from work or [has] an unexplained absence will not be paid for that day and may be subject to discipline,” Van Nyhuis said.
Nguyen said the union is confident in its actions, even though UC claims the strike is illegal, and it will continue with its plans for the daylong strike.
“We’ve done our homework and we’re very confident on what we’re doing,” he said.