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Plumbers, carpenters, electricians at UCLA strike for higher wages and back pay

A day at UCLA
Students walk to and from classes at UCLA on March 1, 2016.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Several hundred skilled-trade workers at UCLA walked out and picketed for higher wages and retroactive pay on Wednesday.

The 24-hour strike was organized by Teamsters Local 2010, a union chapter representing plumbers, carpenters, electricians, elevator mechanics, service engineers and other workers at UCLA and UC San Diego.

Workers began gathering at midnight Wednesday morning, said Teamsters Local 2010 spokesman Christian Castro. They held signs saying “Fair wages now!” “Stop wage theft!” and “Pay workers enough to live!” A similar strike is planned for UC San Diego on Thursday.

Despite the walkout, neither the main campus nor UCLA’s medical centers had any disruptions in service,  said UCLA spokeswoman Kathryn Kranhold. Castro said mid-morning that a boiler was broken and “delays are starting to add up.” He said that the workers get, on average, between 12 and 15 service calls daily. Kranhold later said that there were no broken boilers on Wednesday.

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In a statement, UCLA called the strike unlawful and said that it has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board.

“UCLA is disappointed by this decision and believes this matter is best resolved at the bargaining table,” the statement said.

Castro countered that the workers haven’t been treated fairly. “The university isn’t bargaining in good faith,” he said. “They’re denying wages that were budgeted four years ago.”

The laborers have been working without a contract for four years, union officials say. That’s why they have been asking for back pay in their negotiations with UCLA. They have asked for  20.39% in retroactive back pay and annual wage increases of 17.39%, 5% and 4%.

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The most recent offer from UCLA would give workers a 24.5% wage increase over four years in addition to a 12.5% across-the-board increase and a $1,000 signing bonus. Workers also would get an annual 3% increase from 2017 through 2020.

Union officials say the increases are insufficient, and point to a recent survey that suggested that as many as 70% of UC administrative and clerical workers could lack food security.

UCLA has blamed the protracted nature of the dispute on changing union leadership. UCLA recognized the Teamsters as the representation for the workers in April. Negotiations began in August.

The skilled-trade workers at UCLA make an average of $28.69 per hour, said Teamsters Local 2010 research analyst Timothy Mathews. Facilities mechanics make $23.87, electricians make $33.61 and painters make $28.72.

On Nov. 9, both parties met for mediation. Mathews said the union quickly determined that UCLA’s representative at that session did not have the authority to increase wages. Kranhold said that isn’t true.

The next mediation is scheduled for Nov. 23, Kranhold said. 

You can reach Joy Resmovits on Twitter @Joy_Resmovits and by email at Joy.Resmovits@LATimes.com

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UPDATES:

6:08 p.m.: This article was updated with Kranhold’s statement that all of UCLA’s boilers are working.

This article was originally published at 2:50 p.m.


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