BY KATHERINE HAFNER
In preparation for a union strike that starts today, UCLA Housing Services has revised its dining schedule for two days. Students are also planning to participate in the strike out of solidarity for workers who are asking the University of California for higher pay.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 union, which represents about 13,000 patient care technical and service workers across the UC, is striking today from 4 a.m. until Thursday at 4 a.m. in response to stalled contract negotiations with the university that began last year.
On Monday night, UCLA Housing posted revised dining schedules across the Hill.
Suzanne Seplow, executive director of the Office of Residential Life, said UCLA Housing made the changes in case of a sympathy strike by Hill workers.
The changes include the closure of the Test Kitchen at Hedrick today and Wednesday, and the offering of only continental breakfast at Covel and De Neve dining halls.
MEChA de UCLA, a student group that advocates for Latino rights, and SCALE at UCLA, a student group that supports worker rights and labor issues, have both been reaching out to students through social media to join strikers on the picket line this week.
Leaders of both groups created a Facebook group called “Student Solidarity for UC Patient Care Workers’ Strike” to encourage students to go out to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this week and express support for the striking workers.
Camila Lacques, a fourth-year international development studies and Chicana/o studies student and member of both MEChA and SCALE, said she thinks the workers are making a sacrifice to go on strike. She added that she supports the workers’ decision to try and receive what she called being “compensated accordingly.”
“To us it’s really a no-brainer,” Lacques said. “(The strike) shows that the university cannot function without its workers.”
UC officials have said the union will not agree to the pension proposals the university put forward, while the union raises the issues of high executive salaries and low worker pay throughout the system.
Another union, the University Professional and Technical Employees, which represents about 3,300 UC health care professionals, will also be partaking in a one-day strike today in solidarity with AFSCME 3299.
On Monday, a state superior court judge issued a temporary restraining order that restricts about 450 people – out of 13,000 workers in the union – from participating in the strike, said Dianne Klein, a UC spokeswoman.
Even with the reduced number of strikers, UC officials have said maintaining quality care at the five UC medical centers will be a challenge.
The strike will seriously affect and delay patient care at the medical centers, including UCLA, according to UC officials.
“From our standpoint, this is inappropriate,” said Dwaine Duckett, vice president for human resources at the UC, in a conference call with members of the media on Monday. “To us the real cost is not a dollar one. … It’s the one it will have on our patients.”
Medical centers have planned to delay elective surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation treatments in light of the strike. The university also expects to spend about $20 million to bring in replacement workers, Duckett said on Monday.
Emily Brown, a second-year psychobiology student who volunteers at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, said she received an email from the medical center requesting extra volunteers to help fill in for staff during the strike, even offering incentives like extra volunteer hours for students in return.
Jessica Zerrudo, a fourth-year English student, said while she understands workers’ desire for higher pay, the strike puts some people in a difficult situation.
“As public servants, it is understandable to strike for better conditions, but they are serving needy people,” Zerrudo said.
“I know students who need these (medical) services and students should not be suffering at the hands of UC politics.”
UC officials have said they hope the union will go back to the bargaining table soon.
[Source]: Daily Bruin