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On the picket line

October 5, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Bay Area security officers
University of California patient care and service workers
Providence Health and Services

Bay Area security officers
By Jessica Hansen-Weaver

SAN FRANCISCO--Members of the Bay Area security officers union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 24/7, took to the streets for a week of action September 24-28 in a struggle for living wages and health care benefits.

After months of failed negotiations with property owners and security contractors, workers have had enough. On September 15, Local 24/7--which represents nearly 6,000 security officers in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties--voted overwhelmingly to authorize an unfair labor practice strike if necessary.

"We are ready to strike," said security officer Marcia Duncan. "If that's what it's gonna take, then we are ready."

On September 24, members marched from a rally in downtown San Francisco through the financial district. Many came out to support the workers, including Supervisor Chris Daly, Amos Brown from the NAACP, the African American Action Network, Teamsters, and a representative from Sen. Carol Migden's office. Some bike messengers and other building visitors are honoring picket lines.

Activists are taking aim at the largest property owners in San Francisco, including Morgan Stanley and Shorenstein and Hines. These firms have recruited replacement workers, who are in place in the struck buildings.

Members of Local 24/7, a predominately African American and immigrant union, are among the lowest-paid in the commercial property services industry. While Local 24/7 members protect multibillion-dollar buildings in Bay Area's financial district, the average income for a security officer in the Bay Area is less than $24,000 a year.

"A lot of officers have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet," said SEIU member Keith Ward. He said many officers work seven days a week working multiple jobs.

After 25 years as an officer, he still doesn't have health benefits. He uses the extra income he makes from garage sales as an emergency fund.

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University of California patient care and service workers
By Kathryn Lybarger, Bargaining Representative, AFSCME Local 3299, UC Berkeley

AT RALLIES across California on September 27, more than 1,800 service and patient care workers and supporters turned out at the campuses and medical centers of the University of California (UC) system to demand better pay and protections over health and pension benefits.

The patient care contract expired September 30, and the service contract expires January 30. This kind of turnout at the start of the campaign shows the depth of the anger shared by workers at UC who have fought successfully in the last couple years against pay cuts to fund our pension, and have seen huge increases in our health care costs.

We have seen our wages fall behind the market rate while the office of the outgoing UC president was exposed for its scandals involving unregulated executive compensation.

A host of other issues, like insufficient staffing levels and mandatory overtime, compound UC workers' frustration, and make service worse for students and dangerous for patients.

UC officials know they have a big battle ahead, so they've hired the p.r. firm Hill and Knowlton--which represented Big Tobacco and Enron, and helped promote Bush Sr.'s Gulf War.

Management is right to be nervous. This will be a huge fight for us, but one we can win. We can build on our unity and energy to win a contract that makes UC a university that's for students, patients and workers--not for greedy executives.

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Providence Health and Services
By Kate Johnson

SEATTLE--Chanting "Fired up, won't take no more!" some 200 health care workers, union organizers and activists from Portland, Ore., and Seattle marched to Providence Health and Services headquarters here on September 24 to protest the company's anti-union policies.

The spirited crowd outside jeered at management as a delegation of Portland Providence workers and union officials with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 met with executives to demand fair union elections at the hospital.

Providence employees have been trying to form a union with Local 49 for about two years. Last summer, the Workers Rights Board Fair Election Oversight Commission determined that the company's anti-union tactics made it impossible for hospital workers to hold a fair union election until Providence agreed to fair election ground rules.

Providence has been viciously anti-union since some of its workers first organized in 1985. It hired the notorious union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis, forced Portland employees to attend mandatory anti-union meetings and illegally fired union activists.

Providence is the largest and most profitable "non-profit" hospital chain in the Northwest, a feat it managed by slashing staff, charging exorbitant fees and buying out competitors.

While Providence says it's too poor to hire more staff and pay better wages, CEO Henry Walker retired in 2004 with a golden parachute worth $5.5 million.

Providence workers, who represented a third of the protest, are clearly fed up with their employers' unfair treatment. More rank-and-file involvement and solidarity will be key to the Portland Providence workers' success in winning a union and improving their working conditions.

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