24,000 Union Workers to Strike in May at University of California Hospitals, College Campuses

(The Sacramento Bee/TNS) -

The union representing 24,000 patient-care and service workers at University of California hospitals and college campuses announced Thursday that its members will go on strike May 7-9 over what they describe as gross inequity in pay and concerns about the system’s increasing reliance upon contract workers for work traditionally performed by its members.

More than 4,500 of the 24,000 AFSCME members work at the UC Davis campus and medical center.

“We are really fighting to right the ship and make UC a much more equitable place,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299. “The concerns we have [are] that the top-level executives at UC have seen 64 percent growth in their incomes over the last 10 years, and actually there is a greater gap between their income and that of front-line workers.”

Claire Doan, director of media relations in the UC Office of the President, said the office recently conducted an extensive review of market data on executive compensation, incorporating information from state agencies, to inform the systems’ salary setting — the same methodology they employ for determining the compensation for AFSCME service workers.

“Only 4 percent of UC’s 223,000 employees earn more than $200,000 a year,” she wrote in an email to The Bee. “Among those who do, nearly 70 percent are clinical or ladder-rank faculty professors. In addition, UC’s top executives comprise less than 1 percent of all employees. Their combined earnings equate less than one quarter of 1 percent of UC’s budget.”

AFSCME service employees at UC — including custodians, gardeners, food service workers and facilities maintenance staff — receive wages that are at or above market rates, Doan said. In some cases, those salaries are as much as 17 percent higher than comparable jobs.

Lybarger said that UC is actually helping to tamp down market wages all around the state by hiring contract workers who do the same work that union employees have done for years and, in many cases, those independent contractors are not receiving even the minimum wage set for university workers.

“Contractors make less than most people at the university, and they don’t have benefits,” Lybarger said. “All these things are related.”