AFSCME Strike on Basis of Unfair Labor Charges

Photo by Theresa Marin

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME 3299), “The University of California’s Largest Employee Union,” and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE CWA 9119), announced that they would be striking once again May 16. The news comes following three Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against the University of California just weeks ago. The May 16 strikes are one of many demonstrations organized by the AFSCME and UPTE unions in the past twelve months, and affect both workers and students alike.

According to AFSCME Local 3299, the May 16 strike was a “single-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike.” The charges were filed due to the University of California’s outsourcing of labor that has continued to occur since 2016. The UC system has failed as an employer by outsourcing millions of dollars of work that would otherwise be given to current employees of UC. One such instance of this outsourcing is occurring with UC Davis Medical Center and Kindred Healthcare LLC. The medical center has displaced UC workers by closing some of its facilities for development, and then informing workers they would need to re-apply once the facilities are functioning and open again. In an AFSCME 3299 White Paper document, they reported that the labor being given to Kindred Healthcare’s workers allows for a “$22,100 median total compensation” which is “dangerously below what the California Budget & Policy Center’s budget calculator estimates a single-parent family needs to earn to cover basic expenses without assistance from public programs,” which is estimated to be $56,624.

This is similar to a deal made back in 2016 between UCSF and HCL Technologies; 49 of UCSF’s IT workers were laid off after the University signed a five-year contract “worth $50 million” with HCL Technologies (who are one of the largest IT companies in India).

While outsourcing may not seem to be such a pressing issue to some, AFSCME’s White Paper document explains that “The combination of profit pressures imposed by private equity, the newly-formed private company’s lack of transparency, and historically low wages at Kindred facilities, does not bode well for UC patients, workers, or the larger community.” When the University of California decides to choose private companies over their employees, they are only increasing the problem of income inequality amongst their service workers. Owen Li, a senior researcher with AFSCME Union explains that “low-wage workers on the campuses who work for outside companies —  which tend to pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits —  are more likely to be black.” A report by AFSCME conducted utilized UC Corporate Personnel System data from 2016 shows that workers represented by AFSCME were experiencing pay discrepancies despite doing similar work. For example, a worker identifying as a Black female earned $16.80 per hour compared to a white male counterpart earning $18.69 per hour. It is becoming more prevalent that people of color and women are being paid less for service jobs and that there are recurring patterns of gender and racial bias and inequality within the UC system.

Students who are looking to get involved or learn more about AFSCME and UPTE efforts here at UCLA are welcome to attend meetings for SLAP, the Student Labor Advocacy Project. Students and allies can learn more or sign up to join the picket line to strike against UC’s outsourcing and unfair labor practices.

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