LA JOLLA, Calif. (CNS) - Thousands of University of California research and technical workers, joined in solidarity by thousands more healthcare and patient-care employees, are conducting a one-day strike at facilities across the state Wednesday amid contentious contract negotiations.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, is set to join strikers at UC San Diego's Jacobs Medical Center, one of many strike locations planned around California.
About 10,000 workers represented by the University Professional & Technical Employees, or UPTE, union are expected to walk picket lines. According to union officials, they are expected to be joined by about 5,000 UPTE-represented healthcare workers and potentially up to 27,000 patient-care technical and service workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Clinical Research Coordinator Carolyn Hernandez said she has to live with four other women to afford to live near work. "The gas here is expensive, the food and we have to pay for parking here," she said. She researches why fat forms on the liver and how to battle it.
UC San Diego confirmed in a statement that it would remain open and fully operational during the strike, and scheduled medical procedures are expected to be completed as normal.
"UC San Diego Health's first priority, now and always, is to provide our patients with safe, high-quality medical and surgical care," the university said. "We serve many of the region's sickest and most fragile patients. Any patients who may be affected by the one-day strike will be contacted by our patient care teams."
The union claims the UC's latest wage-increase offer is less than half of what it gave workers represented by the California Nurses Association, and also included retirement cuts while rejecting overtime improvements and limitations on the use of part-time workers. The union told 10News they want a 5.5% increase each year for the next four years.
"It's insulting for UC executives to continue to try to force us into accepting these offers," UC San Diego information-technology worker David Carlos said in a statement released by the union. "It shows a profound lack of commitment to the institution as a whole. Research and technology drive UC's greatness and the short-sighted attempt by UC executives to undermine and outsource career work will be felt by students, patients and the public at large."
A university representative countered that the UPTE's salary double-digit salary demands "are far beyond those given to other UC employees." The last offer they put on the table February 13, 2019 was a 3% wage raise each year for four years, a pension or 401(k) plan and a $1,250 bonus.
"Since negotiations began in 2017, our offers have been fair and substantial, guaranteeing competitive wage increases and excellent benefits," according to the university. "Meanwhile, UPTE leaders have neither presented a realistic counteroffer nor allow their members to vote on UC's proposals."
University officials said they are "doing everything we can to make sure this ill-advised strike has only a minimal impact on student services, patient care and our university communities."
AFSCME employees went on strike at UC facilities in May and October of last year.
According to the union, the UPTE workers staging Wednesday's walkout run clinical healthcare trials and laboratory tests, manage classroom and hospital technology, monitor building safety and care for research animals, among other tasks.