|For the Week of May 20, 2013
In support of AFSCME workers, UPTE’s 3,400 health care professionals plan to strike in sympathy on Tuesday, May 21. UPTE issued this short video in which health care professionals speak about why they support AFSCME’s strike. UPTE-represented technical (TX) and research (RX) workers will support the HX and AFSCME strike before and after work and at the lunch break (these workers’ contract hasn’t yet expired so they cannot legally strike). UPTE’s administrative professionals without a union contract have the full right, under the First Amendment, to refuse to cross picket lines. Any UC employee can join the picket line during lunch and break times. | DETAILS
Like AFSCME, UPTE has been fighting for better patient care and against UC’s inferior two-tier pension plan, as UPTE negotiator Wendy Felson explained in this radio news story. UC unions, including UPTE, AFSCME, and the California Nurses Association, contend that UC’s staff cuts and underfunding of front-line workers are short-changing patients, and that the university’s pension projections are deliberately low-balled in order to justify shifting the pension burden to employees’ shoulders, through higher contributions and degraded benefits. As one newspaper account notes, UC’s highly profitable medical center system has even been cutting front-line positions to free up funds for construction.
UC responded by going to court for a restraining order. UC succeeded in getting injunctions to block strikes by CNA nurses and AFSCME workers in 2005, 2008, and 2010. But this time, PERB refused to grant the request, dealing UC a significant setback. PERB did say, however, that it would block some critical care employees from going on strike. But since these were already staying on the job as part of the union’s “Patient Protection Task Force,” AFSCME said the practical effect of the order was minimal. That didn’t stop UC president Mark Yudof from predicting chaos and losses of $10 million if the strike went forward. UC is canceling elective surgeries for the days of the strike.
Increasing numbers of professional and white collar workers are turning to unions for help with organizing, according to an article this week in the Los Angeles Times, which interviews UC Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken: “Many professionals have pricey educations and are more sensitive to unequal distributions of wealth. That's made them more willing to speak out about inequality at the workplace, said Harley Shaiken, a professor at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues."