Displacement theory

A former state audit sheds light on union’s concerns

Memories of a critical 2017 California State Auditor’s report on the UC president’s office were still fresh for AFSCME Local 3299 members during a recent three-day strike over the university system’s medical institutions.

The AFSCME Local 3299, which represents over 24,000 UC employees, held demonstrations October 23-25 throughout California, including at the UC Davis campus and Sacramento’s medical center. The strike followed stalled contract talks and allegations by the union that the UC system was flattening wages and outsourcing jobs. Outsourcing was a focal point of the 2017 auditor’s report, detailing how the UC system had used service contracts to cut jobs and labor costs, despite clashes with service contract policies.

The report noted that a five-year, $30 million information technology contract in 2016 by UC San Francisco displaced 49 career and 12 contract employees. Meanwhile, a 2015 housekeeping contract for $5.2 million over 18 months by UC Davis Medical Center displaced 12 employees. The auditor noted that “low-wage services contract workers received hourly wages that were on average $3.86 lower than the wages received by comparable university employees,” as well as generally lower benefits.

The recent strike reportedly ended without a change in the workers’ contract. Union leadership didn’t respond to a request for comment.

UC spokeswoman Claire Doan disputed that service contracts displaced employees and said the number of UC union workers had risen 9.9 percent over the past five years. Doan said the union was seeking an 8 percent raise per-year over four years, which was untenable “for a taxpayer-supported institution.”

“The union wants more money—more than any other group at the university,” Doan said. “This is why they are striking, plain and simple.” (Graham Womack)