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UC-AFT Members Stand Up to Support AFSCME's Fight Against Outsourcing of UC Jobs


On August 20, Five UC-AFT representatives—UC Davis lecturers Sasha Abramsky, William Sewell, Katie Rodger, and John Rundin along with former UC-AFT president Kevin Roddy— showed up at a California Senate's Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee hearing to back a bill, ACA 14 (Gonzalez), which was facing an important vote.

​​AFSCME had called on its members and allies, including the UC-AFT, to pack the event and demonstrate the bill's popularity. The five UC-AFT representatives answered the call and Full Group ACA14.jpggave supporting statements in a large hearing room filled with the bill's backers from many parts of California. CFT staffer Bryan Ha accompanied the UC-AFT representatives to express our parent union's endorsement.

AFSCME workers have won better pay and working conditions in the UC system through their union; however, University administrators have tried to undermine the gains and the union itself. They have been outsourcing AFSCME members' work to external contractors that pay lower wages and offer inferior benefits, often not even including healthcare.

ACA 14 will put a measure on the ballot which will amend the California Constitution to forbid such abusive outsourcing. The Constitution must be amended because the Legislature on its own cannot directly compel administrators, shielded by the University's constitutional autonomy, to treat AFSCME workers decently. The amendment will require UC to afford equal employment opportunity standards to all workers on its campus, effective January 1, 2021, or upon expiration or renewal of an existing outsourcing contract after that date.

aimeeMoulin.pngTo fight the bill, the University had telegenic UC Davis emergency physician Aimee Moulin, wearing her doctor's lab coat, speak against it. She told the story of a nine-year-old child injured in a car crash. Back-ups in radiology, she claimed, imperiled his care; moreover, such delays from understaffing could cause ripple effects that could threaten emergency care throughout northern California. Moulin referred vaguely to a need for flexible staffing that contracting out work allows. Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez pointed out that an amendment to the bill will address any such need. Moulin failed to explain why paying people a decent wage with benefits had anything to do with staffing issues at the UC medical centers, which enjoy net operating surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And, somehow, Moulin had apparently failed to notice that hiring contract laborers who work at low wages with no health benefits might also be a threat to Californians' healthcare.

UC-AFT friend and one of the bill's dozens of co-sponsors, California Senator Connie Leyva, who sits on the committee, was eloquent as she reacted to UC's abusive treatment of AFSCME workers and spoke to those in the standing-room-only throng of ACA 14 supporters, "We need to make sure that the [UC] students we're educating know that every job is valuable, that all work is valued, that, if everyone there is not valued, we're doing something wrong in society; we're making them feel that they are less than [others], and that's on all of us, so shame on us if we can't fix this."

Committee member Senator Bob Hertzberg, a former regent, acknowledged UC's poor record on labor relations in the Committee, but he lamented that the situation had led to an attempt to amend the California Constitution and expressed hope that the issues could be resolved at the bargaining table under auspices of the new labor-friendly chair of the UC Board of Regents, John A. Perez. Committee member Henry Stern echoed those concerns, asking why the problem could not be addressed by earlier proposed indirect legislative solutions that skirt the issue of the University's autonomy.supportersOfACA14.png

Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez and AFSCME 3299 president Kathryn Lybarger pointed out that the proposed statutory solutions were problematic and that an amendment to the Constitution was appropriate because basic issues of equity were at stake: UC's outsourcing primarily victimizes women of color and African Americans. The Constitution addresses many assorted issues, including the right to fish and water capture. Why should it not address this far more fundamental issue of equity and justice?

Ultimately, the Committee voted in favor of ACA 14. Despite the odds stacked against it (proposals to amend the California Constitution require two-thirds majorities in all the many votes they face in the Legislature), it has now cleared the California Assembly and is expected to make it through the Senate. The remaining challenges will be the Governor's approval and victory on the ballot. Please urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign ACA 14 (Gonzalez) into law. Governor's contact page.