Nearly 125 doctors and dentists participated in a daylong, systemwide Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) strike on Jan. 27 over alleged illegal behavior by the UC. Although 10 of UCR’s health services’ staff are union members, only one chose to participate in the strike.
UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego (UCSD) and UC Davis were the four campuses where UAPD held picket lines. UCR doctors were asked by the UAPD to join the protest at UCLA, but only one part-time worker participated, according to Cindy Wong, director of Student Health Services. The strike involved only student health centers and not UC medical centers, which serve the public.
“I did not participate in the strike, not for any political reasons, but because there are very sick students who need urgent care. My promise and commitment is to take care of our students,” UCR Chief Physician Kenneth Han said about the nearly 225 students who are served by UCR’s health services daily.
According to Katherine Tam, UC Office of the President Communications Coordinator, the UAPD has several complaints, including denied union access to a meeting room at UCSD, a union request for financial information that the UC has denied during bargaining and employee contributions to the UC pension plan. The union also wants a pay increase of 27 percent for physicians over four years.
“We’ve asked UC for information about their finances, but they’ve failed to provide it, even though we have a right to that information and need it to negotiate,” said Suzanne Wilson of UAPD’s media relations. “Among other things, we want to know how much discretionary funding does each chancellor control and how is that money used, because we suspect that money would be better used to improve health services for students.”
“We believe these allegations do not warrant a 24-hours work stoppage by disrupting student health care,” said Tam. “We also believe this strike is really an effort by the union to hold the student health centers hostage until UC accepts the union’s demands.”
UCOP also said that they have withheld information because they are unsure of how it pertains to bargaining, and defended their current dealings with UAPD.
“UC has offered strong economic proposals; yet the union continues to make demands, such as a 27% pay raise over four years, that would stress the budgets and operations of the student health centers.” The UC’s current proposal would give UAPD members a 3.5 percent wage increase upon ratification, followed by 3 percent annually until 2019.
“The strike was a rousing success,” said Wilson. “An overwhelming number of doctors participated.” However, she believes that “it’s still unclear as to whether UC got our message that they need to bargain with doctors fairly, which was the ultimate goal of the strike.”