Since publication, this strike has been authorized. Check back in the coming days for the latest developments.
OAKLAND, California – After negotiations stalled between the University of California (UC) system and its largest employee union, AFSCME Local 3299, members are considering whether to strike for the second time this year.
The strike vote, set for later this month, follows a three-day walkout by 53,000 UC workers last May over their employer's outsourcing practices, which research shows are widening income, gender and racial inequalities within the UC system, California’s third-largest employer.
“UC’s employment data shows that women are getting paid far less to start than men and that black workers are vanishing,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “It’s because the university has stopped investing in career ladders and outsourced good middle-class jobs to low-wage contract companies that pay workers dirt.”
UC’s Patient Care Technical Unit will be voting on Oct. 9 and 10 to authorize a strike while its Service Unit workers will be voting on whether to join a strike in solidarity.
At issue is UC’s practice of outsourcing career positions to independent contracting companies that pay workers less. Data show that the staffing ratio at UC San Francisco has been as high as one contractor to every six directly employed workers. UC workers say that the practice takes jobs that once paid living wages with full benefits and turns them into low-wage contractor positions with few benefits and a higher risk of abuse.
Research also shows that AFSCME Local 3299 represents the most diverse workforce segments at UC —resembling the demographic makeup of California as a whole more than any other workforce segment at the university system.
Workers argue that outsourcing has the effect of destroying career pathways for people of color and trapping them into low-wage positions. In fact, UC Davis Medical Center has gone so far as to deny outsourced contract workers career Patient Care Technical Unit positions when they apply, though the “temporary” terms of their contracts have been extended multiple years in some cases.
“Outsourcing is pioneering a future of more inequality,” said Rosalyn Williams, an MRI Technologist at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center. “We will not allow UC to normalize a reality where darker skin means lower pay.”