Thousands Across UC Leave Work For Picket Lines, Basic Campus Services Short-Handed

Photo: AFSCME Local 3299 strikers protest at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, blocking traffic earlier in the day.
Skyler Reid/Staff
AFSCME Local 3299 strikers protest at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, blocking traffic earlier in the day.

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Today marks the fourth day of a strike by thousands of UC system employees, leaving the campus unable to perform many of its basic services.

While many of UC Berkeley's departments are not experiencing major disruptions from the striking of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the demonstrations have decreased operational capacity in areas such as transportation, custodial work, construction and food service.

The strike is taking place on all UC campuses, despite a court-ordered injunction prohibiting it. The union represents more than 20,000 patient-care, technical and service employees at the university's 10 campuses and five medical centers.

Mary Cheng, supervisor of the Golden Bear Cafe, said only the supervisor, manager and cashiers have shown up to work, causing the cafe to shut down the smoothie bar, sandwich bar and the grill. While not a member of the union, Cheng said she respects the employees' right to strike even if it means more responsibility for her and the remaining workers at the cafe.

Fritz de Guzman, senior supervisor of the Recreational Sports Facility, said that while the university has hired an outside cleaning service to come and clean the facility in the evenings, it does not compare to its normal service staff schedule.

"It makes you realize how much you really need (the employees) here," de Guzman said. "If I could afford not to come into work, I would not cross the picket lines."

Other unions have openly voiced their support for the AFSCME strike and have encouraged members to join the picket line, including the University Professional and Technical Employees, another UC union that is without a university contract for its workers since its former contract expired on June 30.

"UPTE members support the strike very much, we've been picketing along Oxford every morning around 5:30 a.m. to prevent campus construction and help our brothers and sisters in AFSCME," said Tanya Smith, the union's local president.

Kathryn Lybarger, an AFSCME bargaining representative, said union members also have support from other unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers union, which represents GSIs on campus.

"We've seen a lot of solidarity," Lybarger said. "A large number of folks have not crossed the picket line and have joined our picket line, and for all the other unions that operate under the no-strike clause, on break times and lunch hours they join us."

UC spokesperson Nicole Savickas said the strike is unauthorized and strikers may be subject to disciplinary action. Consequences will be judged on a location-by-location basis, she said.

"At this point, we're reviewing our policies at each location, and we're going to inform our employees before we make a public statement about what those policies are," Savickas said.


Contact Hadas Goshen at [email protected]

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