University of California workers strike, demand higher wages

Leslie Lopez Image
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
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University of California workers went on strike Wednesday, demanding higher wages following failed contract negotiations.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- University of California workers went on strike Wednesday, demanding higher wages following failed contract negotiations.

Workers held signs and grouped together outside the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in a protest scheduled to last 24 hours.

Those on strike include hundreds of electricians, elevator mechanics, plumbers and other skilled-trades workers. They are represented by Teamsters Local 2010, a union that represents nearly 800 skilled-trades workers at UCLA and UC San Diego.

Contracts for the workers at both schools have already expired, and they are striking over the universities' refusal to negotiate over back wages, the union said in a statement. The workers' contract at UCLA expired in 2013 and at UCSD in 2015.

Skilled-trades workers at the two schools earn roughly $32 an hour, which is as much as $10 an hour less than what workers in the area are paid for the same jobs, said Teresa Conrow, a union spokeswoman.

UCLA said in a statement that it was "disappointed" by the decision to strike and believes that this matter will be best resolved at the bargaining table.

Furthermore, UCLA said it believes that the Teamsters' strike is unlawful and filed an unfair labor practice charge with the California Public Appointment Relations Board.

The union has warned of possible disruptions and urged the public to reschedule nonessential campus medical appointments and other campus visits during the strike.

However, the school said it has a contingency plan to ensure that all hospitals and patient care facilities remain open and fully operational.

Also Wednesday, strikers were expected to organize at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and the UCLA Health Services Center on Wilshire Boulevard.

Separately, the statewide contract for 14,000 UC clerical and administrative support workers is due to expire Nov. 30 and the union has threatened "to take strike action if necessary" after the expiration, Teamsters Local 2010 said in a statement.

Support workers are expected to join the UCLA and UCSD strikes during their lunch hour, and also gather during breaks in San Francisco outside a UC Board of Regents meeting taking place Wednesday and Thursday to discuss next year's budget.

A recent study by Occidental College found that the majority of UC clerical, administrative and support staff face problems like food insecurity and hunger due to low wages. Their average wage is $22.70 per hour, Conrow said.