Service Workers Strike UCs

By Judith Scherr
Monday July 14, 2008 - 09:17:00 PM

Despite what appeared to be a judge’s injunction not to strike, thousands of University of California hospital and service workers—including hundreds of UC Berkeley custodians, gardeners, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and more—put in an eight-hour shift today (Monday) walking the picket line, according to union officials. 

On Friday, a San Francisco Superior Court judge told workers not to carry out a planned five-day walkout. But American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local 3299 President Lekesha Harrison told the Planet that the judge’s order did not explicitly bar them from striking as long as they gave advance notice. 

“The University of California is disappointed that AFSCME has chosen to strike, despite the court’s ruling prohibiting such activity,” says a written statement from Howard Pripas, executive director for the university’s systemwide labor relations.  

The union maintains that the strike is not illegal, and that the judge did not explicitly enjoin them from striking. 

Union organizer Mariecruz Manzanares told the Planet that, at first, “people were worried. Management gave them letters saying the court said the strike was illegal and there would be disciplinary action.” 

When reluctant workers saw others on the picket line, they joined in, Manzanares said. 

University spokesperson Nicole Savickas said specific disciplinary action will differ location by location. “Every location has policies related to unexplained absences,” she told the Planet Monday. 

Teamsters working on various construction sites around campus are joining the strike, Manzanares said, adding that the university had brought in temporary workers, something she called “disrespectful.” 

University gardener Hank Chapot was picket captain at Kroeber Plaza today, maintaining a presence of 12 workers. There were 200 at Sproul Plaza and others at sites around the campus perimeter.  

“There was 100 percent turnout from my department,” Chapot told the Planet. Chapot said the union had done its homework, having studies conducted that showed the workers were 20-to-25 percent behind other workers doing similar work. Some service workers earn as little as $10 per hour. 

“We’ve given back and given back to the university,” he said. 

Savickas said the university has issued repeated requests to go back to the bargaining table, but the union has said they are offering nothing new. 

The strike will continue Tuesday at the university, then move to the Office of the President in downtown Oakland Wednesday through Friday.