UC System Workers Vote to Strike

By Bay City News
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

Thousands of patient care and service workers for the University of California system announced Friday they plan to strike as soon as June 2 because they feel their wages just don’t cut it.  

Workers who perform tasks such as driving buses, cleaning medical instruments and serving dorm food, voted between Saturday and Thursday this week on whether to strike.  

UCLA nurse Lakesha Harrison said she could not confirm how many of the 20,000 employees voted, but among those who did, 96.6 percent of patient care workers voted yes to a strike and the same with 97.5 percent of service workers.  

Harrison said the UC hospitals made $371 million in profits last year, but workers have not seen the perks.  

She said workers at other hospitals, such as Kaiser Permanente, make an average of 25 percent more in wages than campus workers.  

However, UC Office of the President spokeswoman Nicole Savickas said she was not sure how they came up with that percentage and that the UC proposed market-competitive rates to the patient care workers Thursday night, which would range from a 4 to a 15 percent wage increase depending on the job.  

The patient care workers did not present a counteroffer, Savickas said.  

“We don’t believe anything is going to be accomplished by a strike,’’ she said. “In order to reach agreement we’re going to have to continue to sit down together.’’  

Harrison said the proposals were not enough to compete with peers who work out of the UC system.  

“We didn’t get into our professions to become rich,’’ she said. “What we want from the universities is to bring our workers out of poverty.’’  

UC San Diego service worker Angela Velazquez said she had to get a second job to support her four children because, without it, her income is about $1,800 a month.  

Velazquez said she misses her children and wants to be able to provide for her family with one job.  

“I know what I do is not glamorous but I feel proud to work at UC and provide services for the students,’’ she said. “It is not fair that people doing the same jobs are making more.’’  

The UC system also proposed an increase in wages for service workers Thursday night, but Savickas said since their wages were state funded and there is a shortfall, the UC system could not offer market-competitive wages.  

She said they offered about $6 million in wage increases and a step-based salary structure.  

But again, no counteroffer was made, and Harrison said the strike could begin as early as 10 days and last at least 24 hours.