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Union fights university over staffing, safety concerns

Protesting alleged harassment and intimidation on the part of management, over 22,000 campus workers and service and technical workers affiliated with the University of California went on strike last month along with 13,000 supportive graduate students. The one-day strike was preceded by a two-day strike in May.

In the latter strike, protestors were comprised of medical center workers, while the recent strike also included campus employees from other departments, who are on a separate contract, though affiliated with the same union. The recent strike had the purpose of calling attention to alleged interrogation and threats against workers who participated in union activity before the May strike.

Both groups have been negotiating with the University for nearly a year. University management is apparently insisting on decreases in benefits and a pay freeze, and refuses to address concerns over staffing. Cost-cutting on the university’s part has apparently resulted in a 20 percent increase in workplace injuries over the past five years, and workers want the university to form staffing committees to tackle concerns over safety and workload.

Anybody who works in nursing and bedside patient care knows that staffing is a major concern at many hospitals. Nurses and caregivers who don’t have adequate support are at greater risk for injury, particularly back injury. Injury to the back can put a nurse out for a good amount of time and leave him or her with permanent lingering pain when they return to work. Having the support of an employer in such a situation is critical. Hopefully the University of California system will work out an agreement with unionized workers that responds to their concerns about employment safety.

Source: Labor Notes, “University of California Workers Strike Against Harassment,” Samantha Winslow, November 20, 2013.

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