SAN FRANCISCO—Thousands of workers across the University of California system walked off the job on Monday, May 7. The strike comes amidst workers seeking higher wages. The University of California San Francisco is one of six medical centers that will be impacted by the three-day strike, as regularly scheduled surgeries and cancer treatments will be rescheduled. The protest will likely effect hundreds of patients across the state.
The strike was orchestrated by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299. The strike runs the gamut of employees from custodians to cooks, nurses, MRI and radiation technologists.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was set to give the commencement speech at Saturday’s event, but had to withdraw because of the strike. Harris’ office released the following statement:
“Due to the ongoing labor dispute, Sen. Harris regretfully cannot attend and speak at this year’s commencement ceremony at UC Berkeley. She wishes the graduates and their families a joyous commencement weekend and success for the future. They are bright young leaders, and our country is counting on them.”
AFSCME Local 3299 indicated in a press release on May 7 that over 25,000 Service and Patient Care Technical workers at the University of California, were joined on the second day of a three-day strike by the California Nurses Association (CNA), which represents 14,000 UC nurses, and the University Professional and Technical Employees’ (UPTE-CWA), which represents 15,000 UC workers.
“We value our employees and respect their rights to representation and freedom of speech,” Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and UCSF Health CEO Mark Laret said in a joint letter to the UCSF community.
“That said, striking is a serious matter, especially when it directly affects vital public services such as patient care,” they said. “Every day, our patients entrust their lives to us, and in turn, we are responsible for ensuring that they receive the highest quality care in a safe and secure environment.”
According to a UC spokeswoman, the union requested raises of nearly 20 percent over 3 years. The hospital offered 3 percent annual raises over the next 4 years. According to a press release from the UCSF website, UCSF Health developed a contingency plan that includes reducing scheduled surgeries, scheduling clinic visits and outpatient procedures outside the timeframe of the strike, transferring patients to other hospitals, delaying elective hospital admissions and hiring well-qualified temporary workers where appropriate. The Emergency Department will remain open during the strike, as will most ambulatory clinics.
“The growing divide between UC’s top administrators and the rest of UC’s workforce is far beyond what a taxpayer funded institution should allow,” says AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “What we now have is a public university that’s literally becoming a monument to inequality, and workers all over the UC system have had enough.”
As of Monday, May 7, UCSF Health rescheduled 12,140 people in cancer, radiology and other clinical practices, including a number of procedures for people who require the acute specialty care of California’s top medical centers. Among the rescheduled appointments include over 300 surgeries, as well as more than 800 appointments for cancer patients, including 280 chemotherapy infusions.
The UCSF emergency unit will remain open during the three days of demonstration.
Written By Seymone Khaleghi and Donald Roberts