Saturday, July 12, 2008

Statewide AFSCME Strike Starts Monday

Picket is at Bancroft & Telegraph MTW and in Dowtown Oakland, at the UC President's Office, on ThF. Please come out.

If you're a UC Graduate Student Instructor, you have the right to engage in a sympathy strike. Details after the AFSCME press release.
Contact: William Schlitz 510-701-0810
Lakesha Harrison, President, 310-877-6878

University of California Service Workers To Begin STRIKE July 14

Gas and food prices exacerbating poverty for workers

California – 8,500 University of California workers will begin a strike at UC's ten campuses and five medical centers on Monday, July 14. The workers do everything from cleaning and disinfecting hospitals and dorm rooms, to providing cafeteria service to patients and students, to ensuring hospitals and campuses are secure. They have been negotiating in good faith with UC executives for almost a year, but have remained deadlocked over poverty wages for months. An overwhelming 97.5% voted to authorize a strike in May.

UC's poverty wages are as low as $10/hour. With skyrocketing gas and food prices, many are forced to take second jobs or go on public assistance just to meet their families' basic needs. Roughly 96% are eligible for at least one of the following taxpayer-funded program: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and subsidized child care. In a difficult budget year, UC executives are pushing the costs of paying poverty wages onto California taxpayers.

"UC executives don't pay service workers enough to survive, but expect taxpayers to pick up the tab in the form of public assistance. We expect that from Wal-Mart – not from the University of California, a public institution – that's double dipping." – Lakesha Harrison, UC Licensed Vocational Nurse and President of AFSMCE Local 3299

Higher gas prices and stagnant wages have created a crisis for thousands of UC families that are already living paycheck to paycheck. Typically, the lowest paid workers at UC can only afford to live in low income communities farther away from campus, forcing a longer commute and higher fuel costs that use a disproportionate portion of their budget. Increasing wages would not only help lift workers out of poverty, but could positively impact CA and the low- and moderate-income areas where UC workers live as they contribute more to their local economy.

"It is always a struggle on UC salary. But now that gas prices are so high, I don't know how my family will survive. From week to week, it's a choice between gas, paying the electric bill, or putting food on the table. I don't want to go on public assistance, but I may have no choice."– Jaron Quetel at UCLA campus

UC wages have fallen dramatically behind other hospitals and California's community colleges where workers are paid family-sustaining wages that are on average of 25% higher. Additionally, University executives insist on increasing benefits costs that would drive families deeper into poverty. When workers have stood up for better lives for their families and better working conditions, the University has retaliated by violating labor laws.

During the strike, hundreds of medical workers may honor picket lines as a matter of individual conscience and refuse to work, "If UC executives insist on paying poverty wages, I cannot in good conscience cross the service workers' picket line. This is a public institution, and UC executives have an obligation to serve the public, not keep people in poverty. – Judy McKeever, Respiratory Therapist, UCSF

According to California State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers' labor agreement, "U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source…It is time for UC to take a broader view of its priorities by honoring the important contribution that service workers make to the U.C. community and compensating them with wages that are in line with the competitive market rate." UC continues to reward its Executives with hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and lavish benefit packages.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, AFL-CIO represents 20,000
patient care and service workers at UC including licensed vocational nurses, medical techs and assistants, respiratory therapists, custodians, cafeteria workers, and security officers.
2201 Broadway Ave, Suite 315 Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 844-1160,
Service workers at the University of California have announced a strike beginning next Monday, July 14, 2008 and ending Friday, July 18. Service workers, represented by AFSCME 3299, have been in negotiations with UC administrators for almost a year now and have been working without an agreement since February 1, 2008.

AFSCME leaders inform us that negotiations with UC have been deadlocked since May, with a major sticking point being below-market wages and benefits: "UC's poverty wages are as low as $10/hour. With skyrocketing gas and food prices, many are forced to take second jobs or go on public assistance just to meet their families' basic needs. Roughly 96% are eligible for at least one of the following taxpayer-funded program: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and subsidized child care."

UAW Local 2865 stands in solidarity with AFSCME and, even during this time when many of us are not working, encourages all of its members to show their support for AFSCME. There are a number of things you can do, including going to the picket line, participating in AFSCME rallies, and sending letters in support of AFSCME workers to UC administrators (
There has been a lot of information circulating regarding the strike. While some of the information in circulation is good, other information risks jeopardizing the protected status of those who are working and choose to honor the picket line. To be safe, ASEs should rely only on official advice from the UAW.
YOUR CONTRACTUAL RIGHTS: Article 19, Section D.2 of the UAW/UC contract states: "Under this section, individual ASEs retain rights of free expression including their right to engage in activities in sympathy with other UC unions or bargaining units who are striking at the work location of the ASE. When ASEs exercise these rights and do not meet the expectation that they comply with the terms of his/her appointment, at the discretion of the University they may not be paid for work they do not perform." If you do elect to exercise your rights under the contract, please note the following:
PAY DOCKING AND SELF-REPORTING requests from your campus or department should be fulfilled. Just as you have the right support AFSCME's strike, the University has the right not to pay you for work you don't perform during a strike.
AVOID LEGALLY UNPROTECTED "PARTIAL STRIKING": If you choose to exercise your right to support the AFSCME strike, do not perform some of your job duties and not others during the AFSCME strike. You will be risking your legal protections.
RETURNING TO WORK: If you make the personal decision to support the strike by not working then, return to work on the first day that you would normally work after July 18, 2008. UC cannot require you to complete any work you didn't do during the strike without paying you for it. If you are employed this term and are asked to make up any work that was not done during the strike, call the Union for advice.
For the latest information, go to UAW Local 2865's website ( or AFSCME's website ( If you have questions or concerns, please contact your campus Union office using the information at the bottom of this e-mail.

In solidarity,

UAW Local 2865 Executive Board
Christine Petit, President
Daraka Larimore-Hall, Northern Vice President Coral Wheeler, Southern Vice President Sara Kirker, Financial Secretary Cassandra Engeman, Recording Secretary Meaghan Chadwick, Trustee Marco Chiodaroli, Trustee Laura Henry, Trustee Hugh Dauffenbach, Sergeant at Arms

UAW 2865 Berkeley
2855 Telegraph Ave, Suite 305
Berkeley, CA 94705
phone: (510) 549-3863 / fax: (510) 549-2514 /


And here's a short video about what it's like to live on the poverty wages that UC pays its service workers:

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