[This statement was updated May 14 to reflect new developments.]
On May 10, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union announced that it had asked the UC patient care and service employees it represents at UCLA Health System hospitals and clinics to strike from 4 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21, until 4 a.m. on Thursday, May 23.
In response, the University of California announced May 10 that it will seek a restraining order against the AFSCME union. Strikes that pose a substantial and imminent threat to public health or safety are illegal under state law. UC believes a strike targeting UC medical centers would pose an imminent threat to public health and safety and would improperly withhold health care from members of the public.
It is very disappointing that AFSCME is threatening services to patients as a tactic in negotiations that are mainly about pension benefits — our patients are not bargaining chips.
The first priority at UCLA Health System's hospitals is to provide patients with safe, high-quality care. In anticipation of a possible strike, UCLA Health System staff has been meeting daily to make contingency plans so that it can continue to serve the public's health needs.
A strike by AFSCME patient care and service workers could possibly involve more than 4,000 UCLA Health System and medical school employees, the majority of whom take care of patients and their families. They include patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, hospital lab and imaging technicians, custodians and food service workers. Patient care areas that would be impacted include Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, UCLA's Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, and UCLA's community and outpatient clinics.
The cost of bringing in replacement workers to provide medical care safely and effectively would be millions of dollars, and the strike would place an undue burden on our non-striking employees.
An AFSCME strike at UC medical centers — even the threat of one — also has significant impacts on patients and their families and on medical center operations in general. Patients' diagnoses and treatments may be delayed because laboratory tests, imaging and other work normally performed by PCT employees cannot be completed in a timely manner, while some elective surgeries, including pediatric surgery and neurosurgery, will have to be postponed.
A strike by patient care employees, depending on its duration, could cost up to $2 million due the cost of contracting for temporary replacement staff, loss of revenue, overtime pay for other staff who step up to help cover shifts and take on other responsibilities, and other financial impacts.
The dedication and hard work of employees at UCLA Health System, including AFSCME members, allow us to provide the best patient care in the country. In return, UC provides competitive compensation and benefits.
To continue to provide world-class care and service, UC needs thoughtful engagement from the union leadership of AFSCME.