The Slatest

Tens of Thousands of University of California Workers to Strike for Three Days

Protest in Berkeley, California.
A protest in Berkeley, California.
AFSCME 3299/Facebook

Thousands of service workers for the University of California system started what is to be a three-day strike on Monday to demand higher wages. According to CBS News, the striking workers from around 10 campuses are expected to number roughly 50,000, bolstered by a sympathy strike from professional and technical employees of the university system.

The union that represents 25,000 service workers—cooks, gardeners, custodians, truck drivers, security guards, lab technicians, and nursing aides—announced the strike last week, when it failed to reach an agreement with the university system on a new contract. The striking workers have argued that their wages have not kept up with the cost of living in the state.

Unions representing nurses, pharmacists, social workers, physical therapists, radiologists, and other technicians said they would join the strike to support service workers. The strike is expected to affect thousands of surgeries and medical appointments, according to the Associated Press. Some health workers will remain at work. The UC system also said it planned for large numbers of temporary replacement workers and nurses, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a union of graduate students might also join the strike, in which case classes that rely on them to teach and grade assignments might be cancelled.

According to KABC-TV in Los Angeles, the university system gave the workers a 3 percent annual raise for three years, but the union, which is pushing for an annual wage increase of 6 percent and a protection against rising healthcare premiums and changing retirement ages, did not consider the raise sufficient. It also requested the university system end its outsourcing practices and address gender, racial, and income inequalities. This last demand, according to the Times, arose from a study that found a growing income gap between the university system’s highest paid workers, disproportionately white men, and its lowest paid workers, mostly women and people of color. A spokesperson for the UC system told CBS that the service workers were already paid at or above market rates.