For the past two years AFSCME 3299 workers bargained for a fair contract with the UC, but have yet to reach an agreement. Tired of waiting, about 60 students with the UC Santa Cruz’s Worker Student Solidarity Coalition (WSSC) and AFSCME 3299 gathered Wednesday at UC San Francisco (UCSF) with protest signs in hand.
Inside the building, during the UC regents public comment session, AFSCME 3299 workers and supporters expressed their disappointment in what they perceive to be the regents’ lack of effort in reaching a fair contract.
“[They] owe it to us workers to give us the respect of acknowledging that this is a problem,” said AFSCME 3299 member Jasmine Tobin, a certified occupational therapy assistant of six years at the inpatient rehab unit at UC Davis Medical Center. “And [they] owe it to us to give the security we’re asking for at the bargaining table.”
Tobin focused on her personal battles with the UC’s outsourcing issue, delivering a tearful comment during public session. Since month and year AFSCME 3299, the largest UC union representing 24,000 employees, has called the UC to provide workers with a fair contract.
Protesters demand UCs provide livable wages and benefits, end ties with immigration agencies and stop job outsourcing, among other grievances. The construction of UC Davis’s new rehabilitation hospital was a particular concern.
In association with Kindred Healthcare, UC Davis plans to construct a joint-venture rehabilitation hospital on its downtown Sacramento campus. A majority of ownership and management of daily operations of the hospital will transfer to Kindred, a health care service company based in Louisville, Kentucky. UC Davis claims the hospital will double the capacity to treat the community’s needs and create 200 more jobs.
UC Davis medical staff argues this costs UC healthcare workers their current jobs. Although the hospital will be known as the UC Davis Rehabilitation Hospital, the rehabilitation staff at the original hospital will need to reapply through Kindred with no guarantee to retain their positions, or be reassigned to other positions within the original hospital.
“Today, I am a mother of two who depends on UC to provide for my family,” Tobin said. “I even expected to retire with UC, but after giving [it] the last several years of my life, all I have to show is a job application to Kindred.”
In the past, UC administration has responded to AFSCME 3299 demonstrations with statements dismissing the demands for higher wages.
“UC has […] offered fair, multi-year wage increases and excellent benefits,” said the UC in a response to the Oct. 23-25 AFSCME 3299 strike posted on UC Net. “The wage increases we’ve offered are consistent with those for other represented and non-represented employees, and would help ensure that pay for our service and patient care employees remains competitive.”
At the end of the public comment session, protesters began a chant, calling out what they believe is the UC’s tendency to value profit over student and worker needs. After several minutes of chanting, police instructed protesters to leave the building for unlawful assembly or face arrest.
“They’re prioritizing profit from all these random companies […] that are complicit in a lot of oppression, especially for marginalized communities,” said third-year UCSC student and AFSCME 3299 intern Citlalli Aparicio. “They are prioritizing profit […] over basic necessities that students and workers have.”
AFSCME has posed the failure of the university to fulfill basic needs as a common thread tying workers and students together.
“Oftentimes we tend to think of [worker and student needs] as separate, but they’re actually in conjunction with one another,” said fifth-year UC Davis student, Martin Giron, discussing protesters’ reasons for assembling. “What affects students will affect workers and what affects workers will affect students.”
AFSCME 3299 member Jasmine Tobin blamed the bureaucracy of the UC system for its shortcomings on the issue.
“It’s [such] a large group of people that those at the top aren’t seeing that this is actually affecting people,” Tobin said. “This is going to affect the reputation of UC as a name [and] as a brand.”