UC workers protest outsourcing, a strategy they say is whittling union jobs one by one – Daily News

on Nov14
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Thousands of University of California service and patient care workers fanned out across the school’s 10 California campuses and five medical centers Wednesday, protesting UC’s practice of outsourcing jobs to lower-wage contract workers.

Local protests took place at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, UC Riverside and UC Irvine Medical Center.

In Los Angeles, an estimated 300 employees represented by the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees Local 3299 gathered in front of the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, eventually making their way down Westwood Boulevard. Armed with picket signs reading “On strike for unfair labor practice,” they chanted, “Go home, go home — UC’s greed has got to go!”

AFSCME Local 3299 represents about 26,000 UC employees throughout the state. Service workers range from security guards and cooks to custodians and truck drivers, while patient care technical employees include jobs such as nurse aids, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists and patient transporters.

Jose Gonzalez, a respiratory therapist at the Ronald Reagan facility, said outsourcing is on the rise. He’s seen it first-hand.

“Little by little, they have increased the number of people being outsourced,” he said. “That’s giving them the power to replace us.”

Hilene Trejo watched the UCLA procession pass by and expressed dismay at the thought of local jobs being lost.

“I’m surprised,”  the 26-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “I didn’t know this was happening. People need jobs here, so I don’t know why jobs would be outsourced — especially at UC.”

Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino, right, and Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, center, join students and workers, represented by AFSCME Local 3299, in a rally at the UC Riverside campus on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. The employees are protesting UC’s practice of outsourcing jobs. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Minimal disruption

In a statement released Wednesday, UCLA said it took preemptive measures to ensure the strike would cause minimal disruption.

“Prior to the strike, UCLA Health retained temporary contract staff with extensive qualifications and experience,” the school said. “A limited number of outpatient and elective procedures — such as diagnostic imaging — were re-scheduled for times either before or after the strike.”

UC’s contract offer

UC spokesman Andrew Gordon said the number of AFSCME-represented employees has grown by double digits in the past five years.

“UC’s contracts with AFSCME protect employees from displacement due to contracting, and no employee can be terminated as a result of a subcontracting decision,” Gordon said via email. “We hope AFSCME will return to the table to negotiate after this strike, as it is the only union without a contract — UC has reached agreements with seven other unions in the past two years.”

Despite that assurance, the union recently filed six new charges that allege the school has secretly expanded its outsourcing of AFSCME-represented service and patient care jobs to low-wage contractors while evading its legal disclosure and bargaining obligations. Recently disclosed documentation, the union said, provides dozens of examples of UC circumventing its own competitive bidding policies in order to avoid negotiating with its own employees.

UC’s latest contract offer includes:

  • A guaranteed 3% to 3.5% raise each year in addition to increases based on experience
  • The same health insurance rates as other employees, plus a $25 cap on monthly increases for two of UC’s most popular health insurance plans
  • Generous pension benefits that most employers no longer offer (This proposal aligns with the compensation of other university employees, according to UC)

UC Riverside

At UC Riverside, a gathering of nearly 100 AFSCME workers walked along the main thoroughfare Wednesday, chanting, “Whose university? Our university!”

Union members there said they respect the students and the university’s mission and didn’t want to stop regular campus activities. Jessie Hermandez, a senior cook who has worked on the UC Riverside campus for 20 years, said they want to get the word out about their negotiation struggles.

“We want to make sure we have job stability,” he said. “Right now we have 20,000 workers vs. 10,000 outsourced workers. Who’s to say that in five years it won’t be 15,000 outsourced workers?”

UC Irvine

Nearly 200 protesters also marched through the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, blowing vuvuzelas and chanting “We run UC.”

At the union’s rally by the center’s administrative offices, state and local politicians voiced their support for the strike.

“Thank you for being courageous — thank you for standing up for workers,” State Sen. Connie Levya, D-Chino, told the protesting workers.

Rosa Barron Bejar, 48, who works at the center as a quality assurance employee, is afraid outsourcing could potentially take her job away.

“I feel I’m entitled to the rights I’ve earned for the last 20 years,” she said. “I need the same loyalty I have provided to UCI, and I need it back from UCI.”

Charmagne Stewart, who witnessed Wednesday’s protest at UCLA, offered a more nuanced take on the situation.

“I feel bad for these employees … but this is commonplace in America,” the 53-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “This is the way our country was designed. If labor becomes too expensive we have to look somewhere else, whether it’s out of the country or just to another labor source.”

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