Judge OKs Strike at UC Medical Centers, Orders Some To Work
On Monday, a Sacramento judge ruled that thousands of clinical and technical workers at University of California medical centers are able to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he ordered a limited number of critical care staff to continue working, the Sacramento Bee reports (Hecht, Sacramento Bee, 5/21).
As many as 12,000 employees are expected to participate in the strike (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 5/20).
Details of Strike
Officials from AFSCME Local 3299 -- a union that represents nearly 13,000 technical workers -- said that more than two weeks ago, its members at UC medical centers across the state overwhelmingly authorized a labor strike. Affected facilities include UC medical centers in:
- Los Angeles;
- San Diego; and
- San Francisco.
The decision comes after 10 months of failed contract negotiations, according to the union.
UC officials argue that the strike is an attempt to distract from more important issues, such as pension reform.
The union says that during the strike, it plans to keep weekend-level staffing in critical areas, such as respiratory therapy for intensive care units, neonatal and burn units.
Todd Stenhouse -- a spokesperson for Local 3299 -- said that some strikers would go back to work in the case of medical emergencies but that they would return to picketing after patients are treated (California Healthline, 5/17).
Details of Ruling
In response to legal motions filedÂ by UC officials, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown refused to stop the strike. He said that neither the UC system nor the state Public Employees Relations Board offered "reasonable cause" to haltÂ the strikeÂ (Sacramento Bee, 5/21).
However, he barred 450 critical care workers from participating inÂ the strike, including:
- Clinical lab scientists;
- Radiologists; and
- Respiratory therapists.
Brown said that an "imminent threat to public health or safety" would exist if certain workers took part in the strike ("KPCC News," KPCC, 5/20).
The judge also issued an order that certain staffing levels must be maintained in neonatal and pediatric care units during the strike.
Response From UC
On Monday, Dwaine Duckett -- vice president for human resources for UC -- at a press conference saidÂ that "patient care is endangered" by the strike because of "a wage dispute that is primarily over pensions and benefits" (Sacramento Bee, 5/21).
He said the UC system already has offered the workers a four-year contract with up to a 3.5% annual increase in wages.Duckett added that the average employee participating in the strike earns $55,000 annually (Cohen, Reuters, 5/20). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.