UCSC Workers Offer New Year Resolutions To Shape Up UC

Members of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local 3299 (custodians, food service workers, gardeners, maintenance workers, shuttle drivers and medical center workers) as well as students, teachers, and community allies, rallied at UC Santa Cruz on January 31st, the same day AFSCME’s contract with the University of California (UC) expired. The demonstration coincided with AFSCME Local 3299’s statewide delegations to all five UC medical center CEOs and all ten campus Chancellors to present a list of seven new year resolutions that the UC System must adopt to ensure quality patient care and student services.

The demonstration, began with a rally in the Baytree Plaza at UC Santa Cruz and was followed by a march to Kerr Hall, where the chancellor’s office is located, to demand justice for UC’s lowest wage workers. AFSCME Local 3299 and their allies are calling on Chancellor Blumenthal to take leadership within the UC to support UCSC workers and strengthen the broader Santa Cruz community by granting AFSCME members a fair contract with market rate standards and benefits protections. AFSCME organizers assert that, “outrageous executive compensation continues to be a top priority at UC while frontline workers struggle to make ends meet.

The UC New Year Resolution delivered to each of the five UC medical center CEOs and 10 Campus Chancellors outlines the actions that UC workers, their families, students and community leaders believe that UC must take to change course and fulfill their public mission. The New Year Resolution calls on UC to Be a Better Neighbor, Lose Weight, Have Less Stress, Spend More Time with Family and Friends, Get a Better Job, Get Out of Debt and Plan for the future.

A report released on January 15th entitled “Failing California’s Communities: How the University of California’s Low Wages Affect Surrounding Cities and Neighborhoods” found that as one of the state’s largest employers, the University of California (UC) could provide significant economic benefits to the communities where its lowest paid workers live by paying the same livable wages as community colleges and other hospitals in the state. If UC were to do so, the resulting economic benefits would include $147 million more spending on local goods and services and $23 million in greater profits for local businesses.

In addition, the report found that the 20,000 lowest paid workers at UC are concentrated in low- and moderate-income communities that are among those most in need of greater economic development and opportunity. The median family income in the communities where the most UC patient care and service workers live is 15% lower and the poverty rate is 50% higher than in the surrounding counties.

The contract for over 11,000 patient care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 expired on September 30, 2007. The contract for the 9,000 plus additional UC workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299 expired on January 31st, 2008. The members of Local 3299 are concerned with the ongoing direction of the UC and how it is affecting their ability to provide the highest quality patient care and student services.

At UC’s five medical centers, below-market wages, expensive benefits and the failure to implement a step system have created recruitment and retention problems, resulting in a less-experienced workforce, reliance on temporary workers and heavy workloads for essential patient care workers. Wages in many classifications are 30% – 50% below workers doing the same jobs at other leading hospitals in the state. On UC’s campuses, low wages and unaffordable benefits have led to service cuts for students and faculty and have created a workforce that struggles to make ends meet for their families.

AFSCME Local 3299 represents 21,000 plus University of California employees at all five medical centers and ten campuses. AFSCME Local 3299 members are essential patient care providers and technicians, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers, groundskeepers and security officers.

Other AFSCME Demonstrations at UCSC in the 2007 – 2008 school year:

Crossposted at Indybay.org: Part I & Part II

Author: Bradley Allen

Bradley Allen is a reporter and photographer in the Monterey Bay Area, and a collective member of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay). Follow him on social media: @BradleySA.