Watch civil rights activist Dolores Huerta celebrate her birthday with UC Davis Medical Center picketers
Roughly 200 striking health care and service workers sang “Happy Birthday” Wednesday to civil rights leader Dolores Huerta at Sacramento’s UC Davis Medical Center, and she returned the tribute by doing what she is known for: exhorting picketers to continue fighting for the rights of rank-and-file workers.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to be at a union rally,” the 89-year-old Huerta told the crowd. “When we are fighting for workers’ rights, we are doing the most sacred thing that we can do. …I know that you are not fighting just for yourself. You are actually fighting for the people you have to take care of, and if the workers aren’t taken care of, how can we expect the people to be taken care of, right?”
Two unions representing 39,000 service and technical workers at the University of California – AFSCME 3299 and UPTE-CWA 9119 – picketed Wednesday outside the UC’s five academic medical centers, protesting unfair labor practices for which they have filed complaints with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. PERB is the arbiter for public-sector labor disputes.
University of California spokeswoman Claire Doan released a statement saying that AFSCME’s charges are merely a blatant attempt to justify yet another strike, the union’s fourth job action in the last 12 months. Union leaders will try – and again fail – to extract bargaining concessions from the university through economic pressure, Doan said, at the expense of students, patients and communities around the state.
Unlimited Digital Access: Only $0.99 For Your First Month
Get full access to The Sacramento Bee content across all your devices.
“UC has focused on reaching an agreement, while AFSCME is intent on staging strikes,” Doan said. “We have offered numerous competitive proposals, all of which union leaders have rejected without allowing a member vote. Meanwhile, AFSCME leaders have not presented any substantive counteroffers since bargaining started in 2017.”
The strike fell on the day that California and a number of other states mark Huerta’s work for economic justice with Dolores Huerta Day. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which became the United Farm Workers union.
In introducing Huerta, AFSCME member Mohammed Akbar described her as loud, proud and passionate.
Asked whether he’d been inspired by Huerta’s speech on Wednesday, Akbar, 36, said: “She’s marched with Cesar Chavez. It’s like he’s right here with us in spirit because she was with him the whole time. It is truly inspiring because, at her age, she’s still coming out and fighting for unions. She’s fighting for the labor workers. She’s still got the fight in her.”
State Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, and state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, assured workers that they were concerned about union allegations that UC leaders were creating a hostile work environment through communications and intimidation tactics.
Pan, a pediatrician, received enthusiastic applause from many who remembered him from the days when he worked at UCD Medical Center. He’s also a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
“I’m proud to be wearing AFSCME green,” said Pan, who donned a union T-shirt over his shirt and tie for the rally. “I used to work here. You are my brothers and sisters … , and we need to be sure that the medical center puts patients first and takes care of its workers. It’s time for a fair contract, right?… It’s time for UC to meet its responsibilities.”
Union organizers said their protests could extend into rush hour, and marches were expected to occasionally delay traffic near UC Davis Medical Center, 2315 Stockton Blvd., in Sacramento. UCD leaders said they expected minimal impact on operations and advised patients to keep their appointments for surgeries and other procedures. The hospital served bag or box meals to patients.
UC Davis Health spokesperson Steve Telliano said that, during previous strikes, about seven in 10 union workers scheduled to work each day had crossed the picket line and come to work, and UCD leaders were expecting the same Wednesday. PERB requires that AFSCME and UPTE-CWA provide enough workers to meet community needs, but both have often supplied more than required.
AFSCME Local 3299 and UPTE-CWA 9119 have been negotiating for two years with the UC over new contracts, and the last contracts for the unions’ five bargaining units expired more than a year ago. Negotiations have reached an impasse for AFSCME-represented workers, and the UC unilaterally imposed contract terms that include a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.
In interviews Wednesday with The Bee, Akbar and other AFSCME members said the state auditor’s report shows that executives and administrators are being paid more than their peers, money the institution could use to better compensate workers on the bottom rung. They also want to see the university system end outsourcing contracts, many of which pay wages far below what university employees make.
UPTE-CWA members have told The Bee that they are also concerned about the proposal for wages, but they also are concerned that clinical lab scientists and other employees the union represents are putting in long hours because of insufficient staffing and that employees in their union don’t enjoy the same generous benefits as other unionized workers.
Both the patient care and service bargaining units of the AFSCME Local 3299 announced the strike March 29, shortly after filing the PERB complaint. The leaders of University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America announced they would strike in sympathy with them.
AFSCME 3299 represents 24,000 patient care and service workers, many of them among UC’s lowest-paid staff. Their number includes custodians, gardeners, food service workers, facilities maintenance staff, medical transcribers, phlebotomists, admitting clerks and respiratory therapists.
The 15,000 members of UPTE-CWA hold a range of research, technical and health care occupations, including art therapists, case managers, audiologists, animal technicians, lab assistants, art models and pharmacists on the UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.
About 200 union workers kicked off their one-day strike at dawn April 10, 2019, at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Related stories from Sacramento Bee
March 29, 2019 11:53 AM
March 26, 2019 02:40 AM
March 20, 2019 09:00 AM
October 23, 2018 07:26 AM
MORE HEALTH & MEDICINE
April 10, 2019 12:01 AM
April 08, 2019 02:40 AM
April 08, 2019 02:40 AM
April 05, 2019 05:48 PM
April 04, 2019 06:31 PM
- Who Was the Unsung Hero of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?
- This plant is used to fight heroin addiction. Why is the DEA banning it?
- A Year After Troy Davis: What's Changed?
- Hometown Papers Urge Rep. Conyers to Resign
- It’s All Right to Say ‘White Supremacy’
- Inside the command center of the fight against Islamophobia
- Can Black Clergy Reframe AIDS Fight?
- The year in fighting for clean water in Flint
- Why the fight to end the death penalty could look a lot like the fight for marriage equality
- Black Issues in Philosophy: Black Women Philosophers Conference at the CUNY-Graduate Center
Civil rights leader Huerta urges strikers at UC Davis Medical Center to keep fighting have 1715 words, post on www.sacbee.com at March 29, 2019. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.