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UC service workers hit the picket lines

July 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of service workers at University of California hospitals and other facilities have gone on strike Monday despite a court order to go to work.The union claims its members are paid poverty wages, but UC officials say they've offered a substantial wage increase.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Subha Ravindhran's report from outside of UCLA Medical Center.

More than 8,500 service workers across California are on strike at UC facilities in defiance of a court order. Last Friday a judge ordered the workers not to strike because of fear that the patient services would be affected.

In front of the brand new Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center building hundreds of university service workers hit the picket lines as early as 6 a.m. Monday. The strike affects janitorial, food, and medical support services.

The workers are asking for higher pay. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims its members are paid poverty wages.

"Some of these administrators, and it's proven on the internet, that they have been, they're making anywhere from $400,000, $300,000, and these are administrators that are literally turning their backs on service workers," said UCLA security officers Ron Boyd.

Members of the AFSCME say for the past year they have been negotiating with the UC system to bring their $10 an hour minimum wage up to $15 an hour. They say many of UC's janitors, security guards, and cafeteria workers can barely support their families and are forced to get a second job.

Jaron Quetel works as an inventory clerk at UCLA, but he had to pick up a second job at Best Buy just to make ends meat.

"I got a kid and a beautiful girlfriend," said Quetel. "If you look at some of the recent surveys that have come out as far as quality of living, standards of living, it's incredible to live in L.A. County and the amount of money that you have to make. And if I'm not mistaken it takes about $63,000 [a year] as a single parent to survive out here. Most of us are making about $30,000, if that much."

The union says 96 percent of the workers are eligible for public assistance, such as subsidized housing, food stamps, and other public welfare programs. UC officials say they have offered the employees a 26 percent pay increase over the next five years, but union workers say it's not going to be enough.

All UC hospitals are still open and treating patients. UCLA officials say hospital services should not be affected by the strike. They say most of their patients' service workers belong to the same union, but they showed up to work Monday. They also say the strike is illegal.

"They've disregarded the court order, a lawful court order," said Dr. Tom Rosenthal from UCLA Medical Center. "There was an injunction granted on Friday which should have enjoined the strike. There should not have been a strike."

The University of California released the following statement:

The University continues to offer dates for bargaining with AFSCME for new contracts for our service and patient care technical employees, and we hope that the union will reconsider its position and honor the court order prohibiting any strike activity at this point. UC has good proposals on the table, and we are hopeful that we can reach agreement through continued negotiations.

Union workers are defying the court order and will be striking everyday for the rest of the week. They say their best offer from UC officials was about $12 an hour, but they say that is not enough.

 

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