After six strikes over nearly three years and an unprecedented show of labor solidarity, thousands of members of AFSCME Local 3299 have made significant progress in their struggle with their bosses at the University of California system.
On Tuesday night, members of the UC service workers unit, which includes 8,000 workers whose jobs range from custodians to truck drivers, landscapers to cooks, reached a tentative agreement with UC.
The historic deal, which would raise the bar for labor standards at California’s third largest employer still needs approval from members by Jan. 30. It includes significant wage increases and secure benefits, as well as significant limits on UC’s ability to outsource jobs to private contractors. It also includes expanded career advancement ladders for UC’s lowest wage workers.
“This tentative agreement takes historic, enforceable steps to strengthen middle class career pathways at UC, and to combat the outsourcing abuses that have only served to depress wages, erode benefits and increase inequality,” said Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, referring to the service workers’ tentative agreement. “Equally important, it provides UC’s lowest wage workers with a long overdue raise, affordable health care rates, and a secure retirement.”
The agreement marks a crucial turning point in an extended struggle for Local 3299’s UC staff, which also includes 19,000 patient care technical workers employed in UC’s medical centers and clinics. These workers remain in bargaining with UC management and have threatened to strike if denied the same fair treatment afforded to service workers.
The patient care and service worker units have been working without contracts since 2017.
Outsourcing of UC jobs to lower wage private contractors has been at the heart of the dispute for Local 3299 members. The practice has grown by as much as 52% in recent years, leading to widening income inequality – particularly among women and minorities who are struggling to eke out a living under flat wages in high cost communities. In what has been one of the longest running labor disputes in UC history, AFSCME members working for the 10-campus system have struck, supported and stood in solidarity with each other.
The same spirit of solidarity and tenacity was evident in a contract victory for UC Santa Cruz’s almost 50-member skilled worker unit consisting of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and other skilled craft workers.
Their recent two-week strike led to a contract which will end many of the same long-running abuses faced by other UC units.
“This has been a difficult and protracted process,” Lybarger said. “But it has brought important issues to light about the growing problem of income inequality, the fight for what’s left of America’s middle class and the responsibility of large public employers to uplift the communities they serve.”