The University of California's largest union will go on strike for three days, affecting tens of thousands of patients and employees throughout California.
The strike will begin at 4 a.m. Monday and end at 4 a.m. Thursday, according to a spokesperson with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees or AFSCME, who said the strike will affect UCSF, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego Medical Centers, as well as the University of California's ten campuses.
In San Francisco, there will be picket lines at the Parnassus Campus as well as the Mission Bay and Mt. Zion Medical Centers. Numerous UC clinics throughout the Bay Area, research labs and the UC Hastings College of Law will also be affected by the strike. The main picket line will be at Parnassus, where hundreds to thousands of picketers are expected.
"No doubt about it, it is a disruption," says Sheila Antrum, the Senior Vice President and COO of UCSF Health. She spoke to ABC7 via FaceTime Sunday night, because she was in a confidential location, training workers who will replace employees on strike. As of 9 p.m. Sunday, Antrum says more than 300 surgeries and 12,140 outpatient appointments and procedures at UCSF's Parnassus campus and Mt Zion and Mission Bay medical centers, were cancelled because of the strike.
"The number one concern for us at this moment is our patients and we will do everything possible to ensure that they have a seamless and comfortable transition." Once patients get past the picket lines, Antrum says UCSF's emergency rooms, emergency surgeries and inpatient care will continue this week. She also says maternity services will remain in tact, "we will have appropriate nursing coverage and appropriate staffing to be able to cover all moms who are coming in for delivery, c-sections and so we are prepared to take care of patients in that manner."
"The biggest issues on the table are, there's a rising income, racial and gender inequality," explains Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for AFSCME. Stenhouse says 9,000 of the union's service workers, like custodians, parking attendants, landscaping, security and food service employees, are striking over stalled contract negotiations. But, a number of other UC union employees are also striking in solidarity, "they are being joined in sympathy by about 15,000 patient care techinical workers, patient care assistants at the hospital, surgical techs, MRI techs, ultrasound techs and so on.
On Tuesday, they will be joined in sympathy by the nurses, California Nurses Association." In all, Stenhouse says 52,000 workers are expected to strike.
"All of us make this university, the top hospital in the nation," says Wendy Gage, a Respiratory Practitioner at UCSF Parnassus who stopped to talk after her shift on Sunday. She will be coming back to campus Monday morning, but not to work. Gage will be striking in solidarity with her fellow union workers for fare wages and benefits. But, she hopes the strike ends soon or doesn't start at all, "I'm hoping that sometime between tonight and in the morning, we all get a text message that the strike has been called off, because people have to work, people have mortgages and children and tuition."
Antrum says UCSF has reached out to most affected patients, but if you have questions or concerns about an appointment at a UC facility this week, you should call your provider.