Service Workers Strike UC Campuses

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

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—walked the picket line, according to union officials.  

They’re staying off the job and picketing the university through Friday.  

Last week, a San Francisco Superior Court judge told workers not to carry out the planned five-day walkout, according to the university. 

But American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local 3299 President Lakesha Harrison told the Planet that the judge’s order did not explicitly bar them from striking as long as the union 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.  

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. On Monday he told the Planet he maintained a presence of 12 workers there. There were 200 at Sproul Plaza and others at sites around the campus perimeter, he said. 

“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.  

Pickets plan to be at the Office of the President in downtown Oakland today (Thursday) and Friday.