University of California workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299 voted last week to authorize a systemwide strike, with 97 percent voting yes.
The union has also called on speakers invited to upcoming UC graduation events, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, to boycott university functions until the labor dispute is resolved.
Earlier this month, union members, community leaders and students marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a protest and civil disobedience action near the campus of the UC-Los Angeles, prompting the arrest of 18 protesters.
At issue is the growing inequality within the UC workforce by a range of metrics: racial and ethnic diversity, employment of women and yawning income gaps between administrators and workers. For example, according to Local 3299’s recently released report, the number of black workers in the UC workforce has declined by 37 percent since 1996.
“When a taxpayer-funded university – whose operations in California are larger than Walmart’s are in this state – fails to meet standards of fairness and equality, it’s our duty and responsibility as Californians to hold them accountable,” said Kathryn Lybarger, lead gardener at UC Berkeley and president of AFSCME Local 3299. “Whether by withholding participation in planned UC events, or joining us on picket lines, we’re calling for elected representatives across California to take a stand against injustice and honor our struggle.”
Fed up with stalled contract negotiations and post-impasse mediation procedures that failed to yield an agreement, UC’s patient-care workers have authorized a solidarity strike to support service workers in the UC system – one of the largest public university systems in the world.
“We’ve negotiated in good faith with UC for over a year now,” said Oscar Rubio, a UCLA food service worker and vice president of AFSCME Local 3299’s Service Unit. “Instead of working with us to address issues of widening inequality and outsourcing, UC’s administrators are pushing proposals that will only make things worse.”
The union has yet to set a strike date and promised to notify UC 10 days in advance of any work stoppage. This is AFSCME’s 70th year as UC’s largest employee union.