AFSCME Summer Strike 2008As a new quarter begins, the UC campus worker labor union is coming out of a summer full of contract negotiations.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents 9,000 service workers and 11,000 patient-care workers throughout the UC system, has been fighting the university for higher wages since its contract expired in January 2008.

The union argues its case based on the wages that workers earn for comparable jobs at nearby institutions, labeling the UC salaries “slave wages” or “poverty wages” and picketing campus with such signs.

After months of negotiations and no progress, the workers filed for impasse, which involves a third-party mediator coming in to help solve the problem.

The union originally intended to strike during the end of the last school year, but was delayed by continued negotiations, and staged a five-day strike statewide beginning July 14.

The workers have had support in their efforts from several student groups, which has led to the formation of the Student and Worker Coalition for Justice. Together, these groups have staged several protests and rallies, including a rally at UCSF in August, union delegates sent to Sacramento to garner political support, and a protest outside the office of Richard Blum, chairman of the UC Regents.

With their contract still in the air, expect to see more from AFSCME in the coming year.