The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, the largest University of California (UC) labor union, held a systemwide strike on April 10, protesting the UC system’s intimidation tactics and aggressive treatment of UC workers during previous strikes.
Thousands of strikers participated in this strike, the fourth since May 2018, as ongoing contract negotiations concerning wage inequality and the outsourcing of jobs extend past the two-year mark. Approximately 120 UC San Diego protesters gathered near Gilman Drive, Thornton Medical Center, and Hillcrest Medical Center. At noon, strikers marched from Gilman Drive through Library Walk and the Chancellor’s Complex. The UC Police Department arrived on the scene shortly after the strikers rallied at the Chancellor’s Complex.
“There’s a cost of living that goes up about 3 percent every year, so if we’re not getting raises, we’re effectively getting pay cuts,” said a striker who asked to be identified only as Marianne.
The strike was held a couple weeks after AFSCME filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board. The charge, filed on March 25, alleges that the UC unlawfully interfered with workers’ rights by means of workplace retaliation, threats of police citations, and effectively condoning physical violence towards workers on the picket line, according to an AFSCME press release.
The charge cites incidences such as the arrest of David Cole, an African American dining hall employee, who protested peacefully at the UC Berkeley February 2018 strike. Cole required medical attention after UC Berkeley police officers threw him to the ground when they arrested him. The charge also cites a more recent incident at UCSD, in which a manager encouraged workers to “give themselves a raise” by opting out of AFSCME membership during a private meeting.
“The UC [system] is scared of workers addressing from the UC [system] what they want in terms of treatment so they’re using illegal tactics to try to scare workers from striking,” Prajay Lolabattu, UCSD Associated Students organizing director and UC Student Association campus action committee chair, said. “The UC [system] tries to convey a different narrative about strikes than what actually happens, despite the fact that they’ve cancelled or been late to the last three negotiations meetings.”
The strikers were overwhelmingly people of color, reflecting the populace that is most affected by the ongoing contract negotiations. Many groups, such as University Professional and Technical Employees, also chose to strike in solidarity with fellow labor workers in their struggle for fair wages.
“The university has been trying to undercut our workers through bribery, like buying their lunches when the strike happens or through violence … and they’re doing this to try to silence our voice so we can’t keep on fighting for our rights,” Gladys Morrow, the media spokesperson for AFSCME, said.
The UC has yet to respond to allegations of violence, although UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan asserted that AFSCME leaders are using the labor practice charge to justify another strike.
“[AFSCME leaders’] unreasonable demand of an 8 percent annual wage increase would cost this taxpayer-funded university hundreds of millions over the life of the contracts, beyond the significant amount we have already offered in raises,” Doan said in a statement to the Triton.
Vrinda Chauhan is a Staff Writer for The Triton.