FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 6, 2020
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Despite dramatic UCSC revenue growth, its skilled craft workers are paid well below market rates and have not had a raise in nearly 3 years
Santa Cruz, CA– After more than two years of bargaining, as many as 49 carpenters, plumbers, electricians, HVAC Technicians and other skilled craft workers who maintain nearly 600 buildings at UC Santa Cruz will go on strike today over substandard pay and staffing levels. Known as the K7 unit, the workers are represented by UC’s largest employee union, AFSCME Local 3299 and have not had a pay raise in nearly three years.
“From substandard wages to outsourcing, this county’s largest employer has shown that it does not value the skilled workers who make it run,” said K7 Unit Bargaining Team Member and UCSC Physical Plant Mechanic Joseph Baxter. “Worse, UCSC has sought to unilaterally impose contract terms that are not market competitive and promote unsafe working conditions. We have no choice but to strike until UCSC comes prepared to address our concerns.”
After unanimously voting to authorize a strike on November 15th, UCSC’s K7 unit will begin picketing on Monday from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at UCSC’s Main Entrance (Bay & High St.) Monday’s picketing will also include a noon rally.
In announcing Monday’s work stoppage, Baxter noted that most skilled craft workers at UCSC are paid dramatically less than comparable workers at neighboring institutions, municipalities and even other UC campuses. In some cases, the market age gap exceeds 30%.
Additionally, while the student population at UC Santa Cruz has grown by more than 27% and university revenues have grown at twice the rate of expenses since 2008, the K7 unit has actually shrunk and more of its work is being outsourced to lower skilled contractors.
“In understaffing or outsourcing the departments tasked with the most physically demanding work on campus, UCSC is needlessly creating a more dangerous environment both for our members and the community we serve,” Baxter added. “Sadly, this appears to be part of a system-wide pattern we have seen targeting other AFSCME 3299 bargaining units, including service and patient care workers. We will not stop fighting until UC’s race to the bottom stops.”
UCSC Skilled Craft Workers help maintain approximately 5.9 million gross sq. ft of space on campus, as well as some facilities off campus. Their work includes everything from maintaining buildings, equipment, research facilities, and student housing units, to installing and repairing electrical equipment, HVAC and campus security systems, and maintaining water lines, gas lines, pumping systems and other building infrastructure.