Strike Two: bargaining at impasse between UC and patient care workers

Last May, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3622, the union which represents the service sector employees across all UC campuses, carried out a three-day strike to protest the UC and what certain research showed was growing wage inequality for women and minority workers. The inequality is largely blamed on the outsourcing of jobs and uncompetitive wages, which, according to AFSCME, has led to an increasing gender and racial wage gap.

The previous strike was carried out by the service sector employees, including custodians, security guards and service staff, who were joined in solidarity by workers from the patient care technical unit and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), which represents nurses among other hospital staff. This time, the potential strike comes from patient care workers, who are using similar reasoning – stalled negotiations and growing wage inequality due to outsourcing – for their strike vote.

An agreement for the patient care technical unit was supposed to be reached in December 2017, but after a year of continued bargaining no agreement has been reached. A large concern for the patient care unit is outsourcing, a practice by which certain jobs are contracted out through private companies who provide cheaper labor. According to AFSCME spokesman John de los Angeles, “Most employers have begun to outsource the low wage work to companies that then go out and find outside workers who will take the work for much lower pay with no benefits and often a higher risk of labor abuse like wage theft.”

In an email to the Highlander, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) wrote, “UC is disappointed that AFSCME leadership has indicated they will ask their members to vote on whether to strike instead of on our offer. AFSCME leadership is requesting a wage increase that is double what other unions have agreed to – and what was given to non-represented employees.”

According to de los Angeles, the UC is shifting the bargaining narrative from one concerning outsourcing and the closure of secure job paths to one about wages. “The real issue at the bargaining table here comes down to one word – outsourcing,” he said, adding “when we talk about inequality really the root of it is the university’s desire to outsource jobs.”

A document provided to the Highlander by UCOP states the UC’s final settlement offers, including a three percent wage increase over the next four years as well as $750, one-time lump-sum payments for patient care workers, but does not mention the practice of outsourcing. A union vote on whether to strike will take place Oct. 9 and 10.

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