UC Medical Center Strike Is On – Thousands of Hospital Workers Begin 2-Day Strike

by on May 21, 2013 · 4 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Health, Labor, San Diego

on strikeThousands of hospital workers at University of California medical centers up and down the state have begun a two-day strike starting today, Tuesday, May 21.

The strike definitely includes the UC Med Centers here in San Diego, at both Hillcrest and La Jolla, where more than 2,000 workers stayed home today or walked picket lines.  The striking workers include vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians, bus drivers and custodians.

The strike follows almost a year of failed negotiations and eight months without a contract.  The last one expired in September of 2012.  Strikers are are motivated by demands that the UC Medical System stop prioritizing profit over quality patient care, as today’s strike is NOT just about higher pay, as is being reported in the mass media.

In addition, demands by UC medical center management that workers increase their contribution to pensions funds have been countered by the union’s complaints about soaring executive compensation in the UC system.

About 13,000 union workers at the 5 UC medical centers are expected to go on strike.  Thousands more are expected to honor the picket lines.

Members of AFSCME Local 3299 – the UC Patient Care Technical Workers  overwhelmingly voted (97%) to go on strike. Health care workers represented by University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) have said they plan to honor the strike and will not cross the picket lines.

Foodservice, custodial and storekeeping workers at UCLA, and possibly other campuses, who are represented by separate AFSCME affiliates may also walk out on Tuesday, according to the Daily Bruin.

AFSCME says that UC management:

“refuse to negotiate reasonable safe  staffing, retirement security and fair wage proposals. Hospital executives receive outrageous compensation, bonuses and pensions, while patient care and safety suffers. In spite of hundreds of millions in annual profits, administrators want to cut pensions and slash retiree health care.”

 UC San Diego administrators told the media that they were forced to cancel 120 surgeries and 350 radiology procedures over the next 48 hours.  UC’s Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Services John Stobo estimated the strike will cost $20 million.

On the other hand, the UC Medical system has $6.9 billion in annual operating revenues and, even though it is technically a non-profit organization, estimates of its net profits run into hundred of millions of dollars, and since 2009, management has increased in size by 38%, adding $100 million annually to the payroll, according to research dug up by Doug Porter.

If You’d Like to Help Support Striking Hospital Workers

First, join them on the picket lines at Hillcrest and La Jolla.

For those of us who can’t but who would like to support the striking UC workers – here’s a link to an AFSCME petition site:

Petition here.

After you sign the petition, please call the CEO’s office of the UC Medical Center nearest you and declare your support for your striking sisters and brothers. Here are some numbers to call (including a San Diego #) along with the key message issues.

Chief Executive Officers

* Mark Laret, UC San Francisco Medical Center – (415) 353-2733

* David Feinberg, UCLA Medical Center – (310) 267-9315

* Terry Belmont, UC Irvine Medical Center – (714) 456-6240

* Ann Madden Rice, UC Davis Medical Center – (916) 734-0751

* Paul Viviano, UC San Diego Medical Center – (619) 543-6654

Please deliver this message when you are connected to their offices:

“I support striking UC workers who are fighting for better patient care at UC Medical Centers. It’s time to put patients before profits and UC should agree to  a contract that guarantees safe staffing standards, and provides workers with fair wages and the ability to retire with dignity.”

We won’t allow executives to keep lining their own pockets at the expense of California’s hospital workers and patients. If we pull together for our sisters and brothers of Local 3299, we will make a difference for them, their families, the patients they serve and for the labor movement in California.

Doug Porter, at San Diego Free Press commented:

The Sacramento Business Journal reports the California Public Employment Relations Board will ask today for an injunction to order 400 key employees to cross picket lines, which are expected at the La Jolla-area UC hospital, as well as at UC campuses at Irvine, Los Angeles, Davis and San Francisco.

Representatives of the unions say they have identified their own set of key workers who will be told to cross picket lines to ensure patient safety. UC system representatives told the news media on Friday that the strike “would pose an imminent threat to public health and safety and would improperly withhold health care from members of the public.”

The UC Medical system has $6.9 billion in annual operating revenues and, even though it is technically a non-profit organization, estimates of its net profits run into hundred of millions of dollars.  Since 2009, management has increased in size by 38%, adding $100 million annually to the payroll.

At the same time, reductions in staffing are taking a toll on line employees. UC San Francisco has announced a 4% reduction in staffing, cuts that its CEO admits is driven by the need to free up resources for new construction.

As with every labor dispute, there are two sides to this story. Unfortunately it would appear that this town’s notoriously lazy reporters are on track to only tell management’s side. This walkout is not about a pay raise – both sides agree that an increase in pay is part of any settlement – it’s about a lot of things, not the least of which is a growing sense by the employees in the UC Medical system that their voices are not being heard..

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sean m May 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Almost every public pension is underfunded. The solution can only be one or a combination of the following: pensioners accept less, current workers contribute more or taxpayers pay more. The strike is not about executive pay, its about getting taxpayers to pay more.


avatar Mister Groucho May 22, 2013 at 10:10 am

You are correct in the sense that pensions are under funded. They should not be underfunded. They should be fully funded way into the future.


avatar Becky B May 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I am a licensed nurse and I can tell you that staffing ratios is a huge concern. I understand striking but worry for the patients that will suffer during the strike. Most health care positions are not just a job but a way of life. And many are under appreciated, over worked and underpaid…..


avatar Mister Groucho May 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

As a teamster member I support the strike for better pay, benefits, safe working conditions, fair treatment by management. UC has a habit of “dumping” more tasks for the same? pay on workers. It’s done by attrition as individuals retire, they don’t re-hire. Your workload increases but your pay doesn’t. That equals more work for less pay.
UC also uses students in jobs formally held by staff workers. Of course, the students aren’t paid benefits nor retirement.
Again, I support the struggle for a decent middle class living. That’s why I plan on being on the picket line.


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