The United Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers (UPTE) held a system-wide strike from March 20-21, protesting contract negotiations with UC administration that have stalled over wage inequality and job insecurity concerns.
UPTE, which represents 15,000 workers, was joined by the UC system’s largest union, AFSCME 3299, which is also currently under contract negotiations. UC San Diego workers marched through campus and congregated at Gilman Parking Structure, Thornton Hospital, and Hillcrest Medical Center, asking for the UC system to return to bargaining after a two-year stalemate.
The UC Office of the President (UCOP) said that UPTE leadership has made unreasonable demands for double-digit raises and failed to present a realistic counter-offer.
“If UPTE and AFSCME leaders had channeled as much effort into negotiations as they do into organized theatrics, we’d have a deal by now,” said UCOP Director of Media Relations Claire Doan in an email. “Three disruptive strikes in less than one year come at a cost to everyone—patients, students and UC communities—while doing nothing to help unionized workers get closer to a contract and wage increases.”
Labor strikes at the UC campuses over the past year have garnered mass support from students and prominent public figures. Last year, Kamala Harris, Mayim Bialik, and John Lewis all withdrew from speaking at UC commencement ceremonies last May to support UC workers during their spring strike. Last Wednesday, United States Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallied workers on strike at UCLA.
“The workers are the ones who enable our campus to run… Since the UC system refuses to adequately address their grievances, if we are able to show solidarity as allies, we can push them [UC leaders] to make a concrete action plan,” said UCSD United Students Against Sweatshops member Aisha Warsame.
Among concerns about wage equity, healthcare, and retirement, workers on strike have expressed heightened anxiety that the UC system is increasingly cutting and outsourcing labor.
“The patients [are] being hurt, the research is suffering, there’s a high turnaround. And the students are the one missing out because people are not staying around long enough to build that the relationship and care,” said UPTE worker Reinhart Selvik.
Mo Al Elew is the Editor-in-Chief for The Triton. You can follow him at @SoloMune.