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UCSF health care workers vote to authorize strike

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Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 at UC Hastings College of the Law strike in solidarity with others in the University of California system on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Health care workers at University of California campuses including UC San Francisco, voted this week to authorize what would be their second strike this year, the union announced Thursday.

AFSCME Local 3299 represents two bargaining units, service workers and patient care technical workers. In May, service workers went on strike for three days over stalled contract negotiations and the patient care technical workers voted to strike with them in solidarity. The strike affected five medical centers and 10 campuses across the state including UCSF Medical Center.

This week’s strike vote is triggered by stalled talks by the patient care technical unit.

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“Today is a bit of a role reversal,” said union spokesperson John de los Angeles. “Our patient care technical unit is exhausting the bargaining process and our service unit is voting to go out in solidarity.”

The patient care technical unit includes employees such as radiation technicians, nursing aides, and patient transporters. “Basically anyone in the hospital who isn’t a nurse or doctor,” de los Angeles said.

Ninety-six percent of union members voted for the strike, de los Angeles said, which authorizes the union’s elected bargaining team to call for a strike after providing a 10-day notice so hospitals can put contingency plans in place.

The union said UC officials this month announced employment terms for the 15,000 health care workers that raised healthcare premiums by 61 percent, increased the retirement age by five years and flattened wages for the next several years. The announced terms also allowed for thousands of patient care jobs to be outsourced, which de los Angeles said was an important point of contention.

“UC is growing at a rapid rate. They are increasingly, instead of giving work to directly employed workers, signing contracts with outside contracting companies who then find outside workers who work for lower wages” and often no benefits, de los Angeles said.

De los Angeles added that often those contractors are women, immigrants, and people of color.

“If these jobs are continually outsourced, we are shutting these people out of career ladders and economic mobility,” he said. “That’s why we are so concerned by the university’s refusal to recognize that outsourcing is an issue.”

UCSF declined to comment on what contingency plans might be put in place should a strike be called, referring questions about the strike to the UC Office of the President.

“For the second time in five months, AFSCME leaders are putting their agenda above the needs of patients, students, employees and the public by calling for yet another strike,” UC spokesperson Claire Doan said in a written statement. “Rather than engage in constructive talks at the negotiating table, AFSCME leaders are using the threat of a strike as a scare tactic. This approach already has cost UC service workers several thousand dollars’ worth of pay increases, limits on health insurance costs and other benefits.”

De los Angeles said there are currently no scheduled upcoming negotiation sessions and that past sessions have completely stalled.

“After a year (of negotiating), it was determined the parties were too far apart, so a mediator was brought in,” he said. “The mediator issued a report and declared that the process has gone as far as it’s going to go.”

“What we want the university to see that is we want to negotiate with them,” he said.

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