As thousands of patient care technical workers throughout the University of California medical system entered their second day of a three-day strike, they were joined in their fight against inequality by AFSCME leadership, who brought messages of solidarity from their sisters and brothers across the country.
“I’m here to tell you that our entire union – AFSCME public service workers from coast to coast – stand with you in this struggle,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders told striking Local 3299 members outside the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles. He connected their efforts to the striking AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis 50 years ago, saying this is “a struggle that our union has been waging for decades”
Saunders enumerated the extraordinary challenges health care workers at UC have faced, including an employer that wants to bypass collective bargaining, outsource jobs, and keep wages flat in the face of growing inequality.
“We will not be silenced, and we will not be stopped,” said Saunders. “We are AFSCME, and we never quit.”
While President Saunders spoke to strikers gathered in Los Angeles, Secretary Treasurer Elissa McBride brought AFSCME members’ message of solidarity to strikers in San Francisco at USCF Medical Center Mission Bay.
McBride praised the example 3299 workers have set for their AFSCME sisters and brothers. “We are inspired by you,” she said. “Your courage. Your commitment. All over our union, Local 3299 is known for that intensity, that militance, that fierce solidarity with your co-workers, your community and those you care for.”
She pointed out the critical role patient care technical workers – nurse aides, surgery techs, respiratory therapists, and many more – play in maintaining one of the country’s top health systems. “You serve as the first and last lines of contact for students, patients, and the general public,” she told strikers. “You make sure they receive the best care that this nationally renowned system has to offer.”
AFSCME members like Sandra Dante, who works in environmental services in the neonatal intensive care unit at Jacobs Medical Center at UC-San Diego, fear how outsourcing might impact patient care.
“My job is to clean and sanitize the incubators where tiny little babies live for the first few days or hours of their lives. I worry what outsourcing might do. They want to hire contract workers who would be paid less than us, and may not care as much as I do,” said Dante. “I worry they won’t be as invested as I am, and it would be the babies who suffer.”
The more than 15,000 members of Local 3299’s patient care technical worker unit voted overwhelmingly to hold the three-day strike to protest growing income inequality in the UC system. They were joined in solidarity by thousands of members of 3299’s service worker unit, as well as members of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA) union.