The bare-knuckles contract brawl between the University of California and one of its larger unions has entered the next round, with an announcement Tuesday that AFSCME Local 3299 is planning to take a strike vote at the end of this month.
The union represents some 22,000 employees who provide staff support and medical services at UC hospitals. Contract talks have been deadlocked for more than a year.
AFSCME officials have said they are pressing for changes to policies that waste public money and put public health at risk. The university counters that AFSCME's concerns are a smokescreen to hide its real agenda to curtail pension changes that other unions have already accepted.
The union plans to take its unfair labor practice strike vote from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30.
AFSCME's move comes after the Public Employees Relations Board last month charged the UC system with intimidating employees who participated in another strike last summer.
And 10 Democratic lawmakers recently sent this letter to the UC's new president, Janet Napolitano. The letter notes the imposed working terms on AFSCME-represented service staff affect some of the UC's lowest-paid employees, "90% of whom are immigrants and people of color."
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that the university's terms for service employees gave them a 2 percent pay raise this year following 5 percent raises during each of the last two years and that they earn more than counterparts in the California State University system or the private sector.
Last August, neutral factfinder Paul D. Roose summed up the relationship between AFSCME and the university like this:
Arguably, the parties are tens of millions of dollars apart in their economic proposals. And, in the opinion of the neutral, each side is vigorously attempting to take away rights traditionally reserved to the other party.
The parties surely recognize that they are a few short steps away from a collision - in the form of a unilateral implementation and / or work stoppage - that will benefit neither side and will harm many other stakeholders in the University community.
Napolitano is planning to meet with AFSCME leaders soon, Klein said, as part of her effort to meet various UC constituencies as she learns her new job, but "not to collectively bargain."
PHOTO: People walk through Sproul Plaza near Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus on June 1, 2011. Associated Press/Eric Risberg