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University of California Workers Arrested Over Mounting Inequality on MLK Death Anniversary

(LOS ANGELES, CA) – Eighteen students, workers, and community leaders were arrested on Wednesday during protests of widening income, racial, and gender inequality within UC’s workforce. The protests came as workers represented by AFSCME Local 3299, UC’s largest employee union, called for a strike vote in their stalled negotiations for a new contract that they hope will bring a renewed degree of fairness in their jobs.

“For almost a year, we’ve worked in good faith to try and address the widening disparities affecting UC’s lowest wage workers,” says Oscar Rubio, Vice President of AFSCME Local 3299’s Service Unit and member of the union’s Bargaining Team. “Instead of trying to close these gaps and preserve critical pathways to the middle-class for disadvantaged communities, UC administrators are pushing proposals regarding subcontracting, and gutting our staffing—all issues that would make things worse.”

For several years now, UC’s top administrators have been mired in scandal—with reports of a $175 million slush fund, half-million dollar payouts for disgraced ex-chancellors, and excessive executive salaries topping the list. Meanwhile, UC administrators are simultaneously proposing significant changes to labor-relations agreements that would raise healthcare premiums, lift the retirement age, flatten employee wages, and accelerate the outsourcing of jobs for thousands of frontline workers.

Public outcry over these issues has intensified amidst the release of a new study that highlights worsening income, racial, and gender disparities amongst UC’s workforce—with women and people of color being the most adversely affected. The study shows that women and people of color earn starting wages as much as 21 percent less than white males and that black women must work an average of 6 years before reaching the start line for white men at UC.

“Fifty years after the death of the greatest champion the Civil Rights and Labor Movement has ever seen, we’re still fighting to shatter the glass ceiling for women and people of color,” adds Monica De Leon, Vice President of AFSCME Local 3299’s Patient Care Unit. “When the state’s 3rd largest, publicly funded employer fails to meet the standards of fairness and equality, it’s our duty and responsibility to hold them accountable.”

On April 17th and 18th, AFSCME represented service workers will be voting to authorize a strike to protest stalled-out negotiations for a new contract and patient care workers will be voting to authorize a sympathy strike.