LOS ANGELES (CN) – Thousands of members with the largest union of university employees in California went on statewide strike Wednesday to bring attention to job outsourcing and stalled contract negotiations.
Union members say the University of California has increased job outsourcing to new levels, bringing in outside contract workers who do not receive benefits and threaten job security for the rest of the workforce.
Fifteen rallies and strikes were held at university campuses in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Los Angeles and several more locations at UC medical facilities.
Striking UC workers include cooks, pharmacy technicians, janitors and many other employees with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-3299 union.
Senior custodian Eddie Thompson Jr. has worked at UCLA since 2011 and like many other union members has a second job.
“I work for a culinary staffing agency as a dishwasher,” said Thompson as he marched with union members outside the campus. “I got three kids and a wife to take care of and these wages are just not cutting it. I’ve invested eight years into this place. I’m kind of like topsy-turvy, but I’m willing to fight.”
AFSCME-3299 filed six unfair labor practice complaints last month with the California Public Employment Relations Board against the UC system over what it calls a secret effort to replace the union employee workforce with contractors.
The union says UC administrators renewed contracts with 25 outside agencies and continue to expand the scope of which jobs will be included. Contract employees do not receive benefits, and the union says the UC system continues to circumvent the process for bringing in new workers, including notifying the union.
In a statement, the UC said, “During the 40 days of bargaining, UC has presented union leaders a dozen comprehensive proposals that would give our hardworking employees their long-overdue agreement. We hope AFSCME will return to the table to negotiate after this strike, as it is the only union without a contract – UC has reached agreements with seven other unions in the past two years.”
The last offer made by UC included 3% wage increases and a prorated $750 payment. The union has been without a contract since June 2017.
Monica Martinez is a union organizer, but she also has two job titles. Martinez has been an administrative/clinical care partner at UCLA Medical Center for nearly 20 years. She does similar work for another hospital as her second job.
The claim that their union is the only holdout makes Martinez upset, because it’s not just about protecting her current job.
“I still have to work a second job and worry about my retirement,” said Martinez. “I have to make sure I can survive. Yeah, we might not reach an agreement the university wants, but that’s because we don’t want to hurt the thousands of employees who would suffer later.”
Enrique Rosas, senior custodian at UCLA, says the union is fighting for job security because it appears to so many within the union that the UC system is gearing up to replace them with a workforce that they will not have to pay benefits.
“It’s beyond stressful,” says Rosas. “With the amount of stress here, focusing what’s at hand – the strike, the contract, our job security and making sure that the university doesn’t do unfair practices – it puts a tremendous amount of stress. Especially because we don’t have the time for our families, we don’t have time to enjoy life for what it really is.”