UCSD skilled workers protest stalled contract negotiations

Members of The Teamsters Local 2010 Skilled Trade Workers Union gathered around Library Walk to protest stalled negotiations with administrators to form a fair contract on Tuesday, Oct. 25. The workers are requesting a contract that includes providing fair wages, stopping rising health, retirement, and parking costs and ending the practice of hiring outside workers for lower wages. University Officials are set to meet with members of the Local 2010 today to continue contract negotiations.

Representing 14,000 University of California employees, The Teamsters Local 2010 aims to ensure safe work environment, better wages, and benefits for their members, which include electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, sheet metal workers, locksmiths, and system operators. The members operate hospitals, offices, housing, and classrooms, affecting patients, students, staff, visitors, and others affiliated with UC. At UCSD, they specifically represent workers that, among other things, “keep the Central Utility Plants that provide electricity, heating, and cooling to the entire campus and hospital complex,” said Union Organizer Robert Leonard.

Members of the Local 2010 have not had a pay raise in two years; instead workers’ take-home pay has gone down over the last eight years and workers are paid an average of 20 percent below the average wage in San Diego. Without a new negotiated contract since Sept. 30, 2015, Leonard claims workers are often expected to work on weekends, holidays, and evenings without proper compensation.

According to a commissioned survey done by the Occidental College’s Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, 70 percent of UC workers struggle with food insecurity, which the study defines as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” In addition, over the past 12 months, one out of four skilled trade workers were forced to choose between buying food and paying their living necessities, six out of ten were forced to choose between buying food and paying for medical necessities, and one in four were forced to choose between buying food and paying their student loans.

Local 2010 filed an Unfair Practice Charge on Sept. 13th for actions they believe constitute as bad faith negotiations. University Administrators and Union members are currently engaged in meetings in response to Tuesday’s action. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Union members presented five proposals, while the university presented one proposal.

“UCSD is currently engaged in good faith bargaining with Teamsters Local 2010 regarding the K6 Unit. We have passed wage proposals, Tentatively Agreed on various proposals and are continuing to bargain in good faith,” said Campus Labor Relations Organizer Terri Winbush.

Leonard and the Union do not agree. “We respectfully disagree with the University’s position. We do not believe they are bargaining in good faith,” said Leonard. “They have stalled, cancelled negotiations, and refused to address issues of great concern to its skilled trades workers, including unsafe practices that threaten employee and student safety.”

The Teamsters Local 2010 will be negotiating with UC San Diego today, Friday Oct. 28 and conducting a strike vote the week of Nov. 7, with a strike date tentatively set for Nov. 17.

“A lot of us went to school and became a skilled trade workers for a reason. We do matter,” said one of the Local 2010 electricians leading Tuesday’s march. “We still love working here, we still take pride in our work, but at the same time all we ask is for respect and fair contract.”

Sylvia O is a staff writer for The Triton.