Service workers at University of California campuses all over the state—including around 1,200 at UC Berkeley—are preparing for a five-day walkout.
The workers, who clean campus dorms, serve food in the cafeterias, maintain buildings and grounds, and perform security services, have not announced when they will begin their strike action. In late May, 97.5 percent of the service employees voted to authorize a strike.
“We’ve been at a standstill for five or six weeks,” said Lakesha Harrison, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) president, noting that 96 percent of the workers qualify for public assistance, including food stamps, child care and housing subsidies.
Speaking for the university’s Office of the President, Nicole Savickas said since wages are funded through the state, the university is constrained by the stalled state budget process. The university has expressed willingness to re-open wage negotiations after the state budget is passed, she said.
An AFSCME statement, however, quotes from a state-appointed neutral factfinder: “UC has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source.”
Savickas said the university disagrees with these findings and has written to the factfinder to that effect.
The AFSCME statement points out, “UC continues to reward its executives with hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and lavish benefit packages,” but Savickas said that is because the university must compete for some employees.
That is a difficult topic, she said. “We can’t deny the contributions the service workers provide.”
But Harrison underscored the reality that “most UC service workers live in poverty.”