July 14, 2008
Thousands of UC Workers Set to Strike Monday Over Wages
By Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Jul. 13--As many as 8,500 University of California employees may hit the picket lines beginning Monday to protest a deadlock over wage increases.
The strike involves workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, who perform housekeeping, cafeteria and security services on UC campuses. The strike is planned to run though Friday at UC's 10 campuses and five medical centers, including UC Davis facilities in Sacramento and Davis.
The union gave UC officials two weeks notice of a strike because an additional 11,500 health care workers may opt not to cross picket lines, which could affect patient care.
Union officials claim their wages have fallen behind other colleges, including California's community college system. Many employees earn $10 an hour, which is as much as 25 percent behind comparable workers at other institutions, the union says. Negotiations have been under way for nearly a year to resolve the wage dispute. The union seeks a pay increase to $15 an hour.
The union claims low wages make 96 percent of its members eligible for government welfare programs.
"The workers at the University of California are living in poverty," said Lakesha Harrison, a UC vocational nurse and president of the union local. "The UC is just forgetting this work force and it's my hope that we are all out there picketing."
University officials offered to increase wages to between $11.50 and $12 an hour. But the union rejected the offer and 97 percent of its members voted to strike.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge Friday issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the strike. But Harrison said the order directed the union to specifically notify university officials about strike times, which it did, and the strike will start as planned Monday.
In a statement Friday, university officials said they expect union members to obey the court order and report to work.
"Our proposals are fair and responsive to many of the union's expressed concerns, and our employees deserve to have these negotiations resolved," said Howard Pripas, director of UC labor relations.
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