More than 21,000 employees at University of California campuses across the state will go on strike for five days at the beginning of March, union leaders have announced.
Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, said today that the primary strike from March 3 through March 7 will involve 8,300 service workers with concerns about wages and staffing issues.
In addition, around 13,000 patient care workers at UC's five medical centers will strike in sympathy with the service workers, Stenhouse said.
Members of both units voted 96 percent in favor of authorizing a strike two weeks ago, Stenhouse said.
UC has been negotiating with both employee groups for more than a year and both groups held a two-day strike last May and a one-day strike last November.
Stenhouse said the service workers' bargaining team decided to stage a five-day strike this time because of "a desire to send the strongest possible message to the university."
Stenhouse said the union has agreed to 80 percent of the university's proposals during the lengthy bargaining process but wants the university "to do the right thing on wages and staffing."
Union leaders say the pay of UC Service workers is so low that 99 percent of them are eligible for some form of public assistance, with some full-time workers forced to live in their cars.
Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president of human resources, said in a statement, "We are deeply disappointed that even as contract negotiations continue, AFSCME leadership has chosen to take this path, which hurts our students, patients and the UC community in a number of ways. This is patently unfair to the people we serve."
Duckett said the employee strikes cost UC about $10 million a day "to ensure that critical services for students and patients continue safely."
He said, "These strikes waste precious university resources and only serve to interfere with reaching a fair contract and getting our employees the raises they deserve and have been waiting too long for."
Duckett said the university has offered AFSCME members "very good contract proposals" in which patient care workers would receive a wage increase of 20 percent over four years and service workers 16 percent over the same period.
He said the university also has offered to freeze employee health care costs, a benefit it hasn't offered to other unions, and the same retirement benefits that other unions have.
Duckett said, "AFSCME rejected our proposals and continues to demand more."
Duckett said the university has asked AFSCME's leadership to bargain in good faith but in announcing another strike "the union has again chosen conflict over compromise."
UC service workers include custodial, groundskeeping, facilities maintenance, dietary and food service employees.
The patient care technical workers who will go on strike include radiation therapists who treat cancer patients, pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists and technicians who operate equipment for ultrasound tests, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and mammograms.