Technical workers throughout the University of California may decide to strike within the next few months if union members vote in favor this Friday.
After 11 months of bargaining, the 17,000 members of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union at all nine UC campuses are voting this week whether or not to strike against the University. Bob Stevenson, president of the Santa Barbara chapter of UPTE, said the union hopes the strike will compel the UC to practice fair bargaining practices in contract negotiations.
“At this point they have not put a wage proposal on the table,” he said. “We want to have decent bargaining.”
UPTE members include staff research associates, clinical and electronic technicians, student affairs officers, analysts and computer programmers.
Stevenson said pay for UPTE employees has fallen 30 percent behind inflation, as opposed to the salary rates of other institutions outside the university who pay at the rate of inflation.
“The reason we are at the university is because we are all dedicated to the students,” he said. “The industry standards got higher but the university did not keep up.”
Twenty-five percent of UCSB’s 400 UPTE members voted from Monday through Wednesday of this week at a polling station in the Arbor from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Stevenson said. Voting for the other UC campuses will end Friday, when all the votes will be calculated.
In order to strike, over 50 percent of the members of UPTE will have to vote in favor of a walk out, Stevenson said. He said a date for the strike has not been set, though he said a strike would probably last one to two days and take place at the end of May or early June.
If a strike does occur, Stevenson said members from other unions would also strike in sympathy with UPTE because of the support UPTE members showed during the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) strike on April 14.
“We have such great unity that the other unions will walk out with us,” he said.
Stevenson said the union is also asking that turnover savings, the difference between the original salary of a top employee and the lower wage of his replacement, be diverted back to employee salaries. Turnover savings are currently returned to the department rather than the employees, he said.
UPTE went on a successful strike about five years ago on the larger UC campuses, and the walk out resulted in one of the best contracts in UPTE history, Stevenson said.
“We did a one-day strike,” he said. “They had to close the campuses down because people couldn’t get [into the campuses].”