Thursday, April 14, 2005

UC, You Suck

So I'm not at work today, because I'm no scab. Instead, I'm respecting the picket line for AFSCME, the union that represents custodians, food service workers and other lower-paid employees at the campuses of the University of California. About 7,300 service workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, are employed at UC's nine campuses and five medical centers.

The two sides have been bargaining for 10 months for a new contract in which wages and working conditions are the chief issues.

This is par for the course for UC and its unions. I was part of the statewide UC-AFT negotiating team when I was a lecturer, and if you want to see creepy cold and uncaring people, sit across the bargaining table from a host of labor relations folks from all the UC campuses and the UC Office of the President. Nothing like people who clearly have complete disdain for what you do establishing the rules of your employment.

The UC unwritten motto is simple--you workers are all replaceable. (Damn that tenure that means profs can't get the boot, too, but most of them are so happy with their own job safety that they do nothing for the 85% of the rest of the UC's employees who don't have it so good. And to think people like David Horowitz believe the professoriate is so liberal....)

The best part is that the UC's mouthpieces spout such obvious bullshit. Here is a passage from a San Francisco Chornicle article:

The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with state regulators, asking that UC give workers information it is seeking and says negotiations have stalled on more than 30 issues.

The university spokesman, Noel Van Nyhuis, said the union has no basis on which to support a charge of bad-faith bargaining. "The fact is we have been bargaining for months and have willingly gone to the bargaining table,'' he said. "We supported going to the mediator to bring both sides to an agreement and participated very willingly to try to facilitate an agreement.

"Obviously, with the state budget cut, we have not been able to offer systemwide raises," he said. "Many of our staff and faculty have fallen behind market in terms of salary.''

Let's take Noel "Christmas Ain't Coming for You Workers" Van Nyhuis's claims one by one...

we have been bargaining for months
The UC always bargains for months. Why? They come to the table without counter-proposals. They refuse to meet on weekends, so the members of the bargaining team have to take up work time to meet. They don't make it easy to schedule meetings. And often the people doing the negotiating don't even have the authority to make deals--they can only sound things out and run back to their superiors.

have willingly gone to the bargaining table
So nice of the UC to comply with the law.

We supported going to the mediator
When the UC finally caved in to agreeing to have unions on its campuses in the first place, it managed to lobby Sacramento so well that much of the law concerning UC unions is stacked heavily in its favor. One huge part of that is the way the bargaining process is set up. While there is a mediation step, the UC can refuse to comply by the mediator's findings. It's pretty much toothless, as we'll see in a minute when we look at what happened with CUE, the union of clericals.

participated very willingly to try to facilitate an agreement
Oy. The UC gets kicked dragging and screaming into everything slightly good that it does. Last year it offered all non-represented, that is non-troublesome, non-union workers, 2 extra floating holidays (mostly as a way to save money by closing more of the school down between Christmas and New Year's--the UC never does anything out of the goodness of its heart, because for that you need a heart). It refused to give the 2 days to any union members. After a huge protest and letter and e-mail writing campaign, the UC was finally shamed into giving even union members the 2 days. Now, in its labor relations blitz to managers, the UC trumpets providing those 2 days as one of the signs about how much it tries to be nice to its unionized employees.

with the state budget cut, we have not been able to offer systemwide raises
In August 2004, the State of California established a fact-finding panel to recommend a settlement of the current impasse between the University of California and the union representing UC clericals, the Coalition of University Employees (CUE). Part of that report asserts: "UC clerical wages are 1/3 funded by the State, and that funding source has not come up for several years. However, clerical wages are 2/3 funded by many other revenues sources that have been skyrocketing (including medical center revenues, which fund the wages of approximately 4000 clericals). Yet UC refuses to look at all of its available resources in determining a fair wage offer instead taking advantage of the State's fiscal crisis by using frozen State funding as an excuse to offer no wage increases. "

Meanwhile, the UC does have plenty of money when it wants to act like a corporation and reward its executives. The San Francisco Chronicle reports: "The University of California gave nearly $2.4 million in bonuses to 65 top executives at its five teaching hospitals in 2004, with 11 administrators receiving more than $50,000 each. The bonuses averaged $36,000 and reached as high as $82,000, according to a report to the UC Board of Regents that was made public Wednesday by an employee union."

So, get out there, if you're in California, and support AFSCME!


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