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By Rhonda Smith
Some 600 plumbers, electricians, elevator mechanics and maintenance workers at the University of California at Los Angeles launched a strike Jan. 6 to jump-start stalled contract negotiations, the Teamsters said.
The parties have been unable to reach agreement on wage proposals for skilled trades workers at the UCLA campus, both sides said. In addition, the union accused university officials of delaying contract negotiations and retaliating against union members. The union plans to strike for five days.
“UCLA is a very liberal culture for students, but it’s connected to the entire University of California system statewide,” Christian Castro, a spokesman for Local 2010 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 6. “When it comes to workers, they really try to run this like a corporation, and many of our workers are getting disrespected and exploited sometimes.”
Not so, university officials said in a statement.
“UCLA respects the contributions of its workers and shares in their desire to come to agreements on fair and competitive contracts in the near future,” the Jan. 4 statement said. “This resolution, however, will be achieved only if all parties engage in respectful and productive dialogue at the bargaining table.”
Teamsters members employed at UCLA have filed at different times several unfair labor practice complaints against the university with the California Public Employment Relations Board, Castro said.
The workers alleged in the complaints that UCLA representatives have “deliberately delayed contract negotiations, threatened and retaliated against union members and refused to bargain over retroactive pay on raises it promised to the workers,” he said.
University officials dispute the allegations.
“That is false,” UCLA spokeswoman Rebecca Kendall said in a Jan. 6 statement to Bloomberg BNA. In October 2015, the union that previously represented UCLA’s skilled trades workers discontinued its role while the parties were bargaining over a new contract, she said.
The State Employees Trade Council previously represented the workers, Castro said.
In April 2016, UCLA recognized the Teamsters as the exclusive representative of the skilled trades unit “and immediately attempted to initiate contract negotiations,” Kendall said.
The Teamsters said it wasn’t prepared to begin negotiations, “and the first bargaining meeting did not take place until Aug. 30,” she said. “To date, 12 bargaining sessions and two pre-impasse mediation sessions have been held in an effort to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement.”
UCLA’s most recent offer “included a fair and generous 24.5 percent wage increase over the next four years,” the university said in a statement posted on its website.
Teamsters-represented administrative, clerical and support employees at all 10 UC campuses statewide are slated Jan. 10 to take part in a one-day strike, Castro said.
They are doing so to show support for the skilled trades workers at UCLA and to urge UC officials to speed up negotiations on those workers’ separate proposed contract, he said.
Local 2010 represents about 12,000 administration support employees throughout the UC system and some 800 skilled trades workers at UC campuses in Los Angeles and San Diego, the union said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rhonda Smith in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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