As the University of California settles contract negotiations with a service workers’ union, another union voted Monday to strike.
After spending 11 months bargaining with the UC for wage increases, 85 percent of the 17,000-person University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) membership voted in favor of striking against the UC, said Bob Stevenson, president of the UPTE Santa Barbara chapter. The vote only needed 50 percent plus one approving a strike to be valid. The strike will last for one or two days either during the last week of May or the first week of June, Stevenson said. The UPTE executive board and local presidents will later collectively decide the strike dates, he said.
UPTE represents technical workers across the UC system, including staff research associates, clinical and electronic technicians, student affairs officers, analysts and computer programmers. However, Stevenson said workers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory would not be represented in the strike because they are on different contracts.
Stevenson said UPTE is asking the UC to abide by fair bargaining practices and for across-the-board cost of living raises. The union is seeking to divert turnover savings — the amount of money saved when an employee replaces a vacant post for a smaller wage than their predecessor made — back into the wage pool.
UPTE employee wages have fallen 30 percent behind inflation in the UC system, whereas other research institutions pay at the rate of inflation, Stevenson said.
Voting lasted from April 25-27 at UCSB, but continued for several additional days at larger campuses, he said. UC Santa Cruz was given an additional week because, unlike other campuses, they lack an official voting organizer and union members wanted ample time to consider their options.
“A bunch of volunteers went there to help them to give them an opportunity to vote,” Stevenson said.
In addition to UPTE members, Stevenson said other unions plan to show support for UPTE by striking in sympathy. So far, Stevenson said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has agreed to join the strike because UPTE participated in their April 14 strike.
Stevenson said the number of UPTE strikers and supporters at UCSB should be comparable to the volume of AFSCME walkout.
“I couldn’t speculate what the turnout will be on the other campuses,” he said. “But I can speculate [for UCSB] that as many people that came out for AFSCME are going to come out for us.”
Meanwhile, UC officials announced Monday that 7,300 AFSCME members agreed to ratify a new three-year labor contract that will expire Jan. 31, 2008. According to a press release from the University, the new contract includes a 3 percent across-the-board wage increase the first year, a 3 percent across-the-board wage increase in year two and a 4 percent across-the-board wage increase in the third year. The contract also includes expanded employee development, training resources and reduced parking rates.
“We are very pleased to have come to a fair agreement with our service employees,” said Howard Pripas, UC director of labor relations, in a press release. “The contract rewards all our service workers for their continued hard work, and it is financially realistic given the state funding the University hopes to receive under our budget compact with the governor. The University worked very hard throughout the process to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
The UC and AFSCME agreement comes after 10 months of negotiations and a one-day strike on April 14. AFSCME represents food service workers, janitors, bus drivers and nurses at the nine UC campuses, five medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.