More than 13,000 workers throughout the University of California medical system are expected to vote on whether to strike later this month after 10 months of failed contract negotiations.
The strike vote comes roughly two weeks after UC patient care workers and other employees held a rally at UC San Francisco’s Parnassus Campus to protest the nearly 300 layoffs that would affect patient care.
Workers, who are represented by AFSCME Local 3299, worry that patients would be compromised because many of those losing their jobs work “on the frontlines” as pharmacy technicians, hospitality assistants and nurses, among other positions.
Union officials said although the layoffs are not the reason for the strike, they certainly are “symptoms of the same problem.”
“We’ve bargained in good faith and worked to secure a contract that puts patient safety first and honors the principle of basic fairness to the frontline care professionals at the foundation of the UC medical system,” union President Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement. “Instead of agreeing to these basic standards, UC administrators are asking frontline care providers to subsidize chronic understaffing, growing management bloat and unprecedented executive excess at UC’s taxpayer-supported teaching hospitals.”
UC officials, however, said the strike vote is an attempt to “obscure the real issues in the negotiations,” which revolve around pensions.
“AFSCME attempts to use patient care as a tool in contract negotiations is completely inappropriate,” said UC spokesman Steve Montiel. “Our patients aren’t bargaining chips.”
The vote on whether to strike is expected to take place between April 30 and May 2. A simple majority is needed to authorize a strike.