UCSF on Strike... Again

Sunday, March 24, 2019

UCSF was besieged by strike activity last week as two groups of unionized workers held back-to-back walkouts.

On Tuesday March 19, resident physicians, interns and clinical fellows took what they called a “unity break,” walking out of their shifts for 15 minutes at noon.

They were taking action to draw attention to failed contract negotiations between their union and the UCSF Medical Center.

It’s been a year since talks began with hospital management with no agreement in sight.

“UCSF has failed to meet some of the very basic demands that we have been fighting for at the table,” Kim Carter, Committee of Interns and Residents union director, told the SF Examiner.

A dissatisfying grievance procedure is among the union’s grievances. Union members do not have a right to union representation through disciplinary proceedings, even though all other hospital employees do.

The Committee of Interns and Residents, which represents 1,100 of UCSF’s resident and fellow population, says UC’s offer leaves them underpaid and underrepresented.

Also striking were theUC system’s University Professional and Technical Employees union for its Research Support Professionals and Technical Units. The labor action began Wednesday, March 20 at 4 a.m. and ended Thursday, March 21, at 3:59 a.m.

According to a union press release, sympathy strikes were called for the same day by UPTE for its Health Care Professionals Unit, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union for its Service and Patient Care Technical Units.

The University of California countered with a public statement on its UCnet website.

“You deserve better — you deserve a contract!” reads the statement.

The statement claimed that UC presented UPTE leaders with a settlement offer that “guaranteed annual pay increases and good benefits for UC research support and technical employees over the next several years, along with $1,250 for each eligible employee upon contract ratification.”

“UPTE leaders immediately rejected the offer, without giving union members the chance to vote on it or offering UC a counterproposal,” read the statement.

Striking employees included operating room specialists, respiratory therapists, patient care assistants, pharmacy and hospital lab technicians, phlebotomists, operating room specialists, financial counselors, pharmacists, social workers, counseling psychologists, nuclear medicine technologists and other health care, research support and technical employees who are integral to the care and well-being of patients and their families.

The striking workers also include custodians, food service workers, shuttle drivers and security officers.

The unions represent approximately 7,300 employees across UCSF, including UCSF Health hospitals and campus, as well as employees at UCSF’s partner Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

UCSF leaders said they hope that UC and the unions will reach resolution for the open contracts soon.

“Labor actions make a significant impact on the lives of our patients and their families,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and UCSF Health CEO Mark Laret in a joint open letter. “During the two strikes in 2018, thousands of patient appointments were cancelled, delayed or rescheduled. Some of our patients had to see other providers for their care. In addition, strikes create very real tensions among colleagues.”

This is the third strike at UC by these unions in less than a year.

For the one-day strike, the UCSF Emergency Department remained open, as did most ambulatory clinics. According to the press release, approximately 680 outpatient appointments were rescheduled. Approximately 150 patients were also rescheduled for oncology infusion because of the strike’s impact on pharmacy services.

Last May, a three-day labor action caused UCSF clinical teams to reschedule more than 12,100 patient visits, including more than 800 appointments for cancer patients and more than 300 surgeries.

During a three-day labor action in October, UCSF Health rescheduled more than 5,000 outpatient appointments, including approximately 241 inpatient surgeries and 152 adult infusions.