UCSF Responds to AFSCME’s Plans for Two-Day Strike

Campus

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union announced on May 10 that its patient care technical workers unit will strike on May 21 and 22 across the University of California system.

AFSCME’s patient care technical workers (EX Unit) will be joined on the picket lines by AFSCME’s service workers (SX Unit), who will engage in a sympathy strike at UC campuses.

UPTE’s health care professionals unit (HX), which includes pharmacists, also announced it will strike in sympathy, and it is possible that members of other unions will also join the strike, although strikes are illegal for members of unions currently engaged in bargaining or still under contract.

Physicians and nurses will not be on strike and will continue to provide care to patients.

UC officials say a strike involving patient care technical employees at its five UC medical centers, including UCSF, would pose an imminent threat to public health and safety and improperly withhold health care from members of the public.

Because of that threat, the University said it will seek a restraining order against an AFSCME strike.

Contract negotiations and mediation sessions have been under way since June 2012.  AFSCME’s bargaining issues include safe staffing committees, limits on contracting out frontline care jobs to inexperienced temps and volunteers, and lower caps on the pensions paid to top UC executives.

According to the UCSF website, the main issue in contract negotiations is the union’s refusal to agree to “needed pension reform across UC. Like many other employers, including the state of California, UC is enacting substantive pension reforms to help the University address a $24 billion pension fund liability, and enable it to continue offering employees financially sustainable pension benefits.”

A strike by AFSCME patient care technical workers, and other union workers who join in sympathy, could involve more than 4,200 employees at UCSF, which operates one of five medical centers in the 10-campus UC system.

The majority of these workers take care of patients and their families at UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. They include patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, sterile processing technicians, hospital lab technicians, pharmacy and imaging technicians.

The strike is also expected to affect patient care services at other UCSF clinical sites, including San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, the dental clinics and Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute.

Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and UCSF Medical Center CEO Mark Laret sent a communication to the UCSF community Monday that said, in part:

“UCSF is a leading university, with top-ranked academics and research programs. Our UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital rank among the nation’s best hospitals and consistently exceed the most widely used patient satisfaction and safety measures in the nation. We ask all employees to continue placing UCSF’s mission of improving health— and particularly the interests of our patients who entrust their lives in us every day—as a top priority.

“If AFSCME goes through with its strike plans and UPTE with its sympathy strike plans, all UCSF employees—including represented employees—would still be allowed to come to work. We encourage you to do so in service of our patients and our community.”