Day 2: Nurses, techs join University of California three-day strike

Thousands of custodians, security guards, gardeners and other service workers at University of California campuses will be picketing for a second consecutive day on Tuesday to address what they say are pay inequalities and they are demanding higher wages.

Aside from the 53,000 workers, thousands of UC nurses and technical employees will also be on the front lines Tuesday as part of a sympathy strike.  The move already has disrupted thousands of surgeries and other appointments, and prompted U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris to cancel her graduation speech at UC Berkeley.

Bay City News reported the university said Carol T. Christ, the first female chancellor in UC Berkeley history, will replace Harris.

The plan for Tuesday is similar to the scene at UC's 10 campuses throughout the state. Union workers wore green T-shirts and carried signs that call for "equality, fairness, respect." According to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the average striking worker earns $40,000 a year.

"This is the most expensive city in the country," said Katie Simon, a UCSF hospital receptionist. "We need to fight." 

UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said AFSCME service workers are already paid at or above market rates and that the union is demanding a nearly 20 percent pay raise over three years.

"A disruptive demonstration will change neither UC's economic situation nor the university's position on AFSCME's unreasonable demands," Doan said about the strike.

The  union and the university have not been able to agree on a new contract and mediation efforts failed.

Medical center officials said they would continue to deliver essential patient care services, but hundreds of surgeries and thousands of appointments were rescheduled last week in anticipation of the strike.

AFSCME spokesman John de los Angeles said the union wants the university to stop its outsourcing practices and address what it describes as widening income, racial and gender gaps for service workers.

"They are actively seeking to hire contract workers in favor of directly employed workers simply because they are cheaper and that is driving inequality," de los Angeles said.

University officials said they have temporary workers to fill-in during the strike but that students should expect changes on shuttle routes, less food offerings at restaurants and other inconveniences.

Doan said the university is working hard to ensure patients and students receive services.

Brenda Bishop, an administration worker at UC San Francisco's anesthesia department, joined hundreds of striking workers who played drums and chanted "One, two, three, four, we won't take it anymore!" outside one of the university's medical centers.

"All the big wigs get big-time bonuses and we're just here to demand what we deserve," Bishop said, who has worked at UCSF for 20 years.

Outside UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, dozens of workers waved at honking cars as they marched along sidewalks hoisting pickets that said "safe staffing now."

The driver of an SUV was arrested after he slowly drove through a crowd of protesters blocking a street outside the medical center, said Los Angeles police officer Lizeth Lomeli. Video from the scene showed a demonstrator in a green shirt hanging onto the vehicle's hood as it moved through the gathering. No injuries were reported.

The UC system, which includes five medical centers and three national laboratories, has 190,000 faculty and staff and 238,000 students.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.