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Workers Strike at UC Riverside, Campus Restaurants Closed in Advance

AFSCME Local 3299 Facebook
AFSCME Local 3299 Facebook
More than 250 custodians, cooks, landscapers and other unionized employees from UC Riverside walked the picket lines Wednesday, joining thousands of fellow union members on campuses statewide in a protest against alleged unfair labor practices.

At UCR, participants in the work stoppage gathered at the intersection of University Avenue and Canyon Crest Drive, waving signs but remaining peaceful.

UCR spokeswoman Kris Lovekin said all campus restaurants were closed Nov. 20 in anticipation of food handlers and chefs not showing up for work.

"We informed the campus community in advance that if they needed a quick coffee or sandwich, they would have to go off campus," Lovekin told City News Service.

She said residence hall cafeterias remained open so that "on-campus residents had access to dining services."

While there were reported delays at medical centers elsewhere in the University of California system because of the walkout, Lovekin was not immediately sure whether UCR's health clinic was affected.

"If necessary, we were prepared to refer students to medical facilities in the community for treatment," she said. "But it's not out of the norm for us to do that."

The labor action was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299. Walkouts occurred at nine campuses, including UCR.

"This is an unfair labor practice strike," AFSCME spokeswoman Liz Ortega told CNS Nov. 19. "UC administrators harassed our members when they spoke up about the safety of students and patients they serve. It is continuing. That's the reason we're going on strike."

Ortega said the decision to stage a walkout was made after patient-care workers, including surgical technicians and respiratory therapists, alleged that UC officials attempted to use coercive measures against them to avert a strike in May.

The union filed grievances with the state Public Employment Relations Board, which validated some of the complaints in a 22-page report issued in September.

"We want to protest their intimidation tactics," Ortega said. "Our workers should be free to voice their concerns about staffing and safety" at medical centers.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge on Tuesday issued an injunction prohibiting some patient-care employees in "essential" functions -mainly respiratory nurses - from taking part in the walkout.

"Striking is not the answer. It will only hurt patients and drive us farther apart," UC Vice President of Human Resources Dwaine Duckett wrote in a letter to union leaders. "UC has demonstrated its commitment and ability to work through issues and reach an agreement, as we did with two other unions last week."

Over the weekend, the UC system reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the California Nurses Association. The UC's roughly 11,700 nurses agreed not to participate in the AFSCME work stoppage.

Duckett predicted that even without the nurses' participation, the strike would delay kidney transplants, cancer treatments and other procedures at the UC Davis Medical Center, UC Irvine Medical Center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UC San Diego Medical Center, UC San Francisco Medical Center and San Francisco General Hospital.

UCR's campus health clinic handles low-priority cases, including women's health issues and dental procedures. Lovekin said 17 AFSCME members work at the clinic, and another 448 members work as cafeteria chefs, groundskeepers, building maintenance workers and custodians.

Reported by City News Service in Riverside

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