UC Patient Care and Service Workers Begin Strike Over Wages

The union representing thousands of patient care and service workers in the University of California system began a strike Monday. KPCC's Brian Watt went to UCLA's Reagan Medical Center in Westwood, where hundreds of workers picketed.

Brian Watt: The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees represents more than 5,000 workers at UCLA, from nurses' assistants to residence hall janitors.

For 11.64 per hour, Kevin Brown takes care of lab rats. His union wants him to bring home at least $15 an hour. He said the raise the UC system is proposing right now amounts to 12 cents.

Kevin Brown: And like, a lot of us out here have families and we can't afford 12 cents to take care of our families, as much as stuff is going up now. They're trying to go up on benefits. They already went up on parking.

Watt: UC officials say they've offered as much as $2 an hour more to service workers and more than that to patient care staff. The university's conducted contract talks with the union for almost a year. The union launched the strike despite a judge's temporary restraining order last week.

The union maintains that it gave proper advance notice of the strike, so the action is legal. But Tom Rosenthal, Chief Medical Officer of UCLA Hospitals, said the judge ruled against the strike because he perceived it would threaten public safety. Rosenthal said that the university has made fair proposals, and that it's dangerous for the union to respond on the picket line.

Tom Rosenthal: Perhaps everybody doesn't get exactly what they want when they want it, but we still think that the best way to resolve this is by sitting down and bargaining.

Watt: Rosenthal said most bedside technical workers at his hospitals had shown up for work on the first day of the strike. So far, he said, the strike hasn't greatly affected patient care.