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Another Labor Strike Might Be In Store For U.C. Medical Centers

AFSCME has notified it intends to instruct its members at Univ. of Calif. medical and research centers to go on a labor strike unless a labor deal could be reached before March 3. (Photo by Parimal M. Rohit)

The union representing service workers of the University of California on-campus medical centers, clinics, area hospitals, and research centers will be on a five-day labor strike during the first full work week of March, it was announced Feb. 20.

Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has asked the workers it represents at the University of California’s facilities across the State to walk out of work March 3 if an agreement about staffing and wages is not reached by then.

“After more than a year of good faith bargaining, this is not where we’d hoped to be,” AFSCME 3299 Bargaining Team Member and U.C. Service Worker Jose Mendez said. “In reality, the cost of a settlement will be far cheaper for U.C. than the cost of a strike.”

Locally, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica will be affected by the planned labor strike.

Joining the U.C. Service Workers in a sympathy strike will be the union’s Patient Care Technical Workers group, it was also announced.

The University of California issued a statement after the AFSCME announcement, claiming the institution had offered “very good contract proposals” to the labor union and the workers it represents.

“Patient care workers would receive a wage increase of 20 percent over four years and service workers 16 percent over the same period,” U.C. vice president of human resources Dwaine Duckett stated. “In addition, the university has offered to freeze employee health care costs – a benefit not offered to any other union — and the same retirement benefits that other unions have. AFSCME rejected our proposals and continues to demand more.”

According to AFSCME officials, 96 percent of people in each group, respectively, supported the planned five-day labor strike.

AFSCME claims the U.C. service workers it represents receive the lowest pay.

The labor union estimated 99 percent of service workers at U.C. medical and research centers “are income eligible for some form of public assistance, with some full time workers forced to live in their cars.”

“According to OSHA, workplace injury rates amongst UC Service workers have skyrocketed by over 20 percent over the last five years,” a statement issued by AFSCME said.

The labor union states a stalemate still exists because of a “unilateral implementation of terms that amounted to pay cuts” and the University of California’s most recent offer still leaving an estimated 95 percent of service workers “income eligible for some form public assistance,” among other claimed issues.

If realized, the planned labor strike between March 3 and 7 would be the third such walk out involving AFCME workers since May 2013.

AFSCME represents about 22,000 patient care and service employees. About 3,800 of those employees work for the UCLA Health System.

In a similar system-wide labor strike on Nov. 20, 2013, it was estimated the one-day walk out would cost the entire UCLA Health System $2.5 million, including lost revenue and compensation for replacement workers.

A two-day labor strike from May 21 to May 22 last year might have cost the UCLA system as much as $5 million in lost revenue and expenses, officials then estimated.

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