Registered nurse Amy Hamel, Dr. Naomi Silber, Dr. Linda Kirby and Dr. Janie Gleghorn (left to right) form a picket line in front of the Student Health Center. Photo by Alex Posis
Registered nurse Amy Hamel, Dr. Naomi Silber, Dr. Linda Kirby and Dr. Janie Gleghorn (left to right) form a picket line in front of the Student Health Center. Photo by Alex Posis

The original version of this article included information that was unclear and has been edited. More information is at the bottom of the article.

For the first time in 43 years,  the Union of American Physicians and Doctors, which represents doctors that work at UC student health centers, protested. UC Santa Cruz physicians and members of the labor council gathered outside of the Student Health Center on Jan. 27 to protest as a part of a UC-wide strike to resolve unfair labor practices and demand better mental health care for students.

The physicians fought for an increase in discretionary funding for the Student Health Center. This funding would potentially go toward hiring more physicians and a psychiatrist to provide students with better mental health care.

“An Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) Strike is the only way to compel the UC to follow the laws that govern bargaining,” said Dr. Stuart A. Bussey, the president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, in a statement. “The UC has a history of disrespecting workers during negotiations and we are no exception to that.”

While counseling is offered through UCSC’s Counseling and Psychological Services, there is now limited availability for students to receive mental health care, said Dr. Elise Hughes of UCSC.

“We want to be able to recruit and retain skilled physicians,” Dr. Hughes said. “Santa Cruz is an expensive place to live. The ability to live in Santa Cruz and do your job, and have a balance in your work and your lifestyle out of work is hard to do here.”

The UC system hasn’t issued financial reports on the money in discretionary funds, which are controlled by the chancellors. Dr. Sean Kennedy of UC Davis said in a statement that this discretionary money could potentially be used to render more student health service support without raising student fees.

“Our managers are trusting what the UC Office of the President [UCOP] tells them,” said Dr. Linda Kirby of UCSC. “The accuracy of what everyone is being told is not really clear. Negotiating teams have been in negotiations for over a year. They have met 41 times.”

The Union of American Physicians and Dentists filed multiple ULP charges, yet the UC still refuses to provide information regarding finances.

“There are a variety of ways the 10 campus [health] services are funded and the salaries are set — none of it is based on a scheme,” said Dr. Janie Gleghorn of UCSC. “The system needs to be looked at as a whole. What should somebody coming to a UC campus deserve to expect in terms of what and how it is provided to them?”

UCOP media specialist Shelly Meron said while the strike is about unfair labor practices, those claims are either unsubstantiated or UCOP has not had enough time to talk about the issue.

“They filed these charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, which is a state agency that looks into these charges,” Meron said. “The board has not issued any formal complaints about any of the charges. The bottom line for us is this is not about unfair labor practice charges —— this is a negotiation tactic.”

Other UC campuses participated in the strike including Davis, Berkeley, San Diego, Los Angeles and Irvine, some of which held rallies.

“The reason why we do this is because we love taking care of college students,” Dr. Kirby said. “We want to stay here and give good care to students. This is just ultimately hurting them.”

 Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that this protest was the first in 25 years. To clarify, it is the first time in 25 years licensed doctors went on strike against a U.S. employer. But it has been 43 years since the UC union for doctors has gone on strike.