LOS ANGELES — Thousands of custodians, security guards, gardeners and other service workers at University of California campuses started a three-day strike Monday to address pay inequalities and demand higher wages.
Strikers gathered at sunrise on the 10 campuses throughout the state, wearing green T-shirts and carrying signs that call for “equality, fairness, respect.”
The strike was called last week by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents 25,000 service workers, after the union and the university could not agree on a new contract and mediation efforts failed.
Nurses and other medical workers will join the strike later this week, which is expected to disrupt thousands of surgeries and other appointments.
The service workers called for a sympathy strike by professional and technical employees, including medical assistants, nurses, radiology and other technicians. A union representing 14,000 nurses and another union that includes about 15,000 pharmacists, clinical social workers and physician assistants agreed to join the strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Medical center officials said they would continue to deliver essential patient care services, but hundreds of surgeries and thousands of appointments were rescheduled last week in anticipation of the strike.
AFSCME spokesman John de los Angeles said the union wants the university to stop its outsourcing practices and address what it describes as widening income, racial and gender gaps for service workers.
“They are actively seeking out to hire contract workers in favor of directly employed workers simply because they are cheaper and that is driving inequality,” de los Angeles said.
UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said AFSCME service workers are already paid at or above market rates and that the union is demanding a nearly 20 percent pay raise over three years.
“A disruptive demonstration will change neither UC’s economic situation nor the university’s position on AFSCME’s unreasonable demands,” Doan said about the strike.
University officials said they have temporary workers to fill-in during the strike but that students should expect some inconveniences.
She said the university is working hard to ensure patients and students receive the services.
Outside UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, dozens of workers waved at honking cars as they marched along sidewalks hoisting pickets that said “safe staffing now.”