UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: July 15, 2005

(1) UC Upset and Motivated to Settle TX/RX Contract
(2) Nurses to Strike Next Thursday
(3) Benefits and Retirement Threatened

(1) UC Upset and Motivated to Settle TX/RX Contract

The UPTE strike at the end of May certainly got the University's attention. Initially, UC administrators came back to the table defiantly replacing their pre-strike wage offer with much less money, and petitioning the state labor board to certify that negotiations were at an impasse. They wanted to break the trend started by the AFSCME service workers, who won contract settlement with a one-day strike in April, especially with the clericals and nurses contemplating strikes as well.

UPTE members have persistently kept public pressure on UC to address high turnover rates among researcher and tech staff. Members have made their voices heard by attending scientific events and bargaining sessions. On the legal front, the state labor board refused UC's request to declare negotiations at impasse. The board has also issued complaints against UC for refusing to provide wage information relevant to bargaining.

Higher level UC administrators have now intervened in the bargaining process to seek a resolution. UPTE's wage demands remain the same: across-the-board increases matching UC's funding compact with the governor, as well as step increases. UPTE also wants limits on increases in the cost of benefits, and refuses to give up the right to support other unions when they have job actions. We hope that the involvement of real UC decision-makers will lead to an agreement.

In the mean time, UPTE has launched a “membership campaign for a contract.” High staff turnover rates at UC translate into many new hires. We're reaching out to them (and any other workers who have not yet joined) to welcome them into the union. Our new membership form allows everyone to make a statement supporting a fair raise at the same time they sign up union membership. If your co-workers have not yet joined the union, please ask them to join so they can get member benefits and help all of us get a contract sooner. We'll take the new membership signups to the bargaining table to convince UC that the longer it holds out, the more employees will line up against them.

If all this public pressure on UC does not yield a contract, UPTE will work together with the clerical union (CUE) to plan significant workplace actions when students return in the fall, including a possible strike.

(2) Nurses Set To Strike Next Thursday
Nine thousand nurses at the UC medical centers have announced a one-day unfair labor practice strike for Thursday, July 21. The University has refused to bargain over cuts to their retirement and benefits, or the important issue of safe staffing levels. The California Nurses Association points to the University's alignment with Governor Schwarzenegger as a problem, as these issues are part of Schwarzenegger's larger attack against the state's public workers.

UPTE encourages its members to support the nurses' strike any way they can. If there is a picket line at your worksite, you have the right to not cross it. You can attend rallies, wear buttons to work, and participate in other worksite actions. We will be sending an additional email next week with more detailed information on picket sites and ways you can support the strike.

(3)  Benefits and Retirement Threatened
The University may radically change our benefits and retirement plan in the coming decade. In a management presentation obtained by UPTE, UC considers more than tripling our monthly benefits premiums as well as starting retirement contributions in coming years. Citing double-digit increases in the cost of benefits, UC benefits managers also told UPTE's Joint Benefits Committee and other unions about plans to increase co-pays for doctors' visits and prescriptions next year. However, UC refused to reveal any specifics, even though the state budget has now been finalized.

UC's unions have advocated that UC support broader health care reform that will keep costs down for everyone, such as preventing monopoly hospital chains from overcharging for services or providing low-quality health care. The University has over 150,000 employees and retirees who are members of its health plans, giving it great leverage on these hospital chains to lower costs. At the same, the UC unions will continue to work on broader health care reform so that more Californians have health care coverage. UC hospitals take up more than their share of indigent, non-insured medical emergencies.

PTE will continue to meet with UC benefits managers over the summer to get more information. For the latest, check the reports from our Joint Benefits Committee at our benefits website.

The UPTE E-Bulletin is prepared by UPTE-CWA President Jelger Kalmijn for all members.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write him at president@upte-cwa.org. If you wish to have dialogue with other members about UPTE-CWA issues, sign up for our web forum.