AFSCME #3299 Labor Union to Strike Against UC May 7–9

Photo courtesy of afscme3299.org

AFSCME #3299, the official labor union of the University of California, will strike against the UC system May 7 to 9 after voting to authorize a strike on April 18.

AFSCME #3299 is the UC system’s largest labor union, which represents over 24,000 people at ten UC campuses, five medical centers, and numerous clinics and labs.  The membership of AFSCME #3299 includes many maintenance and service workers on all ten UC campuses, including the workers for Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH), hospital workers, and career staff.

“Today, AFSCME Local #3299, which represents over 25,000 Service and Patient Care technical workers at the University of California, issued a 10-day notice of their intention to engage in a three-day strike from May 7 to 9,” an AFSCME #3299 press release said.

The union also called for UC San Diego Commencement speaker House Representative John Lewis and UC Berkeley Commencement speaker Senator Kamala Harris to boycott their respective events until the dispute has been resolved.

The labor union voted to authorize a strike on April 18 in response to the results of the Pioneering Inequality study released this April, which analyzed previously unreleased wage data about the UC system. It shows an increasing wage gap between top wage earners, such as administrators, and workers. Women of color earn significantly less than other workers.

“Women of color earn 21 percent less than men for starting wages,” AFSCME #3299 Communications Director John de los Angeles said in a phone call. “[Shrinking of the workforce] driven by the UC’s desire to outsource jobs to low wage contractors that don’t receive benefits. Actually, what we’re finding is that displaced workers pop up as contractors, which puts a downward pressure on workers.”

The most recent bargaining debate, which caused the vote for a strike, resulted in UC noncompliance with the labor union’s demands to freeze healthcare costs, increase benefits, stop contracting jobs out, and strengthen sexual harassment protections.

Instead, the UC system agreed to increase wages two percent per year, far from the six percent the labor union requested. In addition, the UC system would keep the power to increase premiums and copays while cutting benefits each year. The UC system would be able to continue outsourcing jobs to low-wage contractors with no extra protection against layoffs to service workers whose jobs have been outsourced.

At the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD) Senate meeting on April 25, the AS Senate voted unanimously to pass a resolution of support for the union’s efforts, introduced by Campus Wide Senator Miguel Vasquez.

“Associated Students of University of California at San Diego assert its support of AFSCME 3299’s contract demands—including demands for fair wages, stable health and retirement benefits, no contracting out, increased wages for student workers, robust Sanctuary protections, ban the box and targeted local hiring, etc.—and calls on the UC to stop making cuts on the backs of its lowest-paid employees,” the resolution says.

In addition to the letter, ASUCSD Vice President of External Affairs Refilwe Gqajela discussed the actions students can take to be more welcoming of maintenance workers. She discussed the mistreatment of HDH maintenance workers by on-campus residents that she saw as a residential advisor.

“There was one suite in particular that was a violently anti-Black suite. And their specific building had a worker. They would just like make [the bathrooms] nasty and then while he cleaned, they would call him names. They would throw slurs at him,” Gqajela said. “So what are UC administrators and the colleges doing to support workers in the colleges?”

Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books