UC Workers Discuss the Possibility of a Strike at Press Conference
A group of UC students, workers, elected officials and other Californians will meet at the State Capitol this afternoon to take action as the united coalition, Take Back UC, which includes UC-affiliated individuals addressing what they believe are the biggest issues facing the University, such as alleged mismanagement by administrative UC officials.
Today’s Take Back UC press conference will feature Republican State Senator Anthony Cannella and Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan, along with California Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome Horton. Taking place at Room 317 of the State Capitol at 1:30 p.m., the press conference marks the official beginning of a campaign that, according to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse, has been “very quietly in existence for a few weeks.”
Take Back UC serves as a platform for students, donors, workers, alumni and elected officials to learn about administrative management and funding at the UC, in order to allow citizens to be “watchdogs over the UC system” and “amplify each others’ voices” when advocating for administrative reform, Stenhouse said.
“There’s been real concern — from the legislature, from around kitchen tables, from dormitories and from hospitals — about whether the UC is investing in things that matter,” Stenhouse said.
After 96 percent of UC workers within AFSCME 3299 voted to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice Strike last Wednesday, following a formal complaint from California’s Public Employment Relations Board regarding threats and coercion by administration to patient care and service workers. Now, the University is welcoming AFSCME back to the bargaining table for further negotiations.
According to UC Office of the President Spokesperson Dianne Klein, AFSCME’s claims regarding disproportionate pay and administrative threats to workers are false. She said UCOP aims to come to a compromise with union workers in order to protect UC medical care patients.
“We are doing this in the hope of avoiding a strike,” Klein said. “In the event of a strike, patients would be affected at the medical centers … it would certainly have a negative impact on the UC.”
Klein also said that despite accusatory claims by AFSCME and other union workers, administration is working at its fullest potential to ensure the UC is negotiating fair contracts for all of university representative employees.
“Allegations made through the media are not helpful to anybody, but we certainly respect anyone’s right to organize and to engage in protest,” Klein said. “The facts are what they are; they’re posted online and really that’s all I can say.”
UCOP will be working with their $24.1 billion annual budget — which they will be discussing during the Regent meeting next Thursday, Nov. 14 — when dealing with what Klein said has been almost $1 billion in budget cuts over the last five years. This budget shortfall exists even with the passing Proposition 30, which essentially rescued the University from tuition hikes.
“Last year, the state increased our budget by five percent, but even with that increase, we haven’t made up the shortfall,” Klein said. “We hope that the state will continue to invest more in the University, but that’s no silver bullet. We can’t go to Sacramento with an open palm and say, ‘More, more, more.’”
But according to Jeff Macedo — Communications Director for Senator Cannella, who will be attending today’s Take Back UC conference — shortfalls in funding for the UC cannot be pinned down to a lack of state funding, nor to a poor economy.
“Recession doesn’t count for growth in administration and pension … we need to examine what the causes are,” Macedo said. “There will be greater funding as a result of Prop 30, and we have to make sure that funding is being used in the right way.”
At Take Back UC, Canella will discuss pension reform for UC employees as well as what he believes to be a disproportionate amount of funding delineated to administrators instead of service and patient care workers, Macedo said.
“Part of the reason he’s joining the Take Back UC campaign is because we’re not seeing results, in terms of improved education or patient care,” Macedo said. “There has to be some kind of accountability about how our funds are being used.”
Depending on this week’s negotiations, AFSCME will either establish a strike date or hold it off. If AFSCME does decide to strike, they are required to give UCOP a 10-day notice. According to Klein, while administration respects AFSCME’s right to protest, their behavior will not benefit the current funding issues facing the UC.
“To increase funding, we have to be more creative,” Klein said. “It’s an ongoing process — including increased philanthropy, system-wide efficiencies, a working-smarter program and different enrollment strategies, among other things.”
According to Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Alex Choate, despite UCOP’s claims that union demands for pension reform are not feasible, coalitions that join students and labor union workers like Take Back UC help encourage a stronger student movement at the statewide level.
“I understand UCOP’s position in saying protesting and striking isn’t helping the UC, but it is really important to show support for labor workers,” Choate said. “They need to be respected and treated as people and given their opportunity to livelihood.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of the Wednesday, November 6, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.