Thousands of workers at University of California hospitals walked off the job Wednesday, November 20, protesting what they claim are unfair labor practices. Three San Diego locations were targeted in the one-day strike.
Leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union claim that its members have faced "a coordinated campaign of illegal intimidation and harassment from UC Administrators against frontline service and patient-care workers advocating safe staffing standards" in the buildup to and aftermath of a two-day strike last May.
The union and UC officials at that time were negotiating a new contract for months and reached an impasse regarding employee benefits and reduced staffing levels, the latter of which, the union argued, was endangering patients in the name of increasing the hospital system's profitability.
The union — which was joined by sympathy strikers from the California Nurses Association and the University Professional and Technical Employees union — says its members were improperly interrogated regarding their planned participation in the previous strike and that they were threatened with disciplinary action.
At the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, about 200 workers joined the picket, which was to run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Passing motorists, notably several driving UCSD-owned work vehicles, honked and waved in support. One wheelchair-bound patient asked for a sign as a caregiver pushed him around the block with the picket line.
State assembly members Lorena Gonzalez and Shirley Weber visited to pledge support in pushing the UC system at the state level to address a host of complaints documented during the last strike.
David Alvarez, who upset Nathan Fletcher to claim the second runoff spot in San Diego's special mayoral election on November 19, was scheduled to speak at noon. Alvarez may have instead decided to stay home and nurse his aching vocal cords — the candidate was hoarse and seemed exhausted when claiming victory late Tuesday night.
After remarks from local labor leader Richard Barrera, an impromptu speech from Weber (who had appeared earlier at the UCSD Medical Center in La Jolla), and the distribution of dozens of pizzas to the strikers, Alvarez was nowhere to be found over an hour past his scheduled appearance.