22,000 UC Hospital Workers On Strike Today

About 22,000 patient care and service workers at five University of California medical centers and nine campuses plan to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest what they say are unfair labor practices by the university, a union spokesman said today.

Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents those workers, said employees are holding the walkout in reaction to what he alleged was a campaign of illegal intimidation and harassment by UC administrators of service and patient care workers during a two-day strike at UC medical centers in May.

UC officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment but previously have denied that the university engaged in unfair labor practices and simply asked employees ahead of time if they were going to honor the strike in May but did so only for planning purposes.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge David I. Brown issued a temporary restraining order today barring 49 employees who perform essential functions from striking on Wednesday.

But Stenhouse said the union had already proposed two weeks ago that those employees not go on strike and UC officials had sought to bar a larger number of workers from striking.

Stenhouse said the union has formed a patient protection task force to make sure that emergency medical needs at UC medical centers will be met during the strike. He said a similar task force was formed during the strike in May.

UC officials said in a statement that a strike “will have a negative impact on patients at the medical centers and student health centers” and some elective surgeries have been postponed.

But at the same time, UC said it is making plans to make sure that all of its hospitals stay open and that quality patient care is still delivered during the strike.

Stenhouse said the unfair labor practices strike is “separate and distinct” from the union’s 18-month-long negotiations with the university for a new contract.

He said a bargaining session was scheduled for last week but the university canceled it.

However, UC officials said they are “committed to reaching a long-term contract with AFSCME” and invited the union back to the bargaining table in early November “in an effort to resolve differences” but the union rejected its proposal.

Graduate student instructors and other UC academic employees who belong to United Auto Workers Local 2865 will also participate in the strike on Wednesday.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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