7/21/08

AFSCME proud of its illegal strike

Walkout against judge's order was a crude bargaining tactic

It was hard to miss the commotion right off of Sproul Plaza last week as American Federation State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 protesters holding "Service Workers ON STRIKE" signs marched in protest against the university, later moving to the UC Office of the President in downtown Oakland. But what they left behind were deserved criticisms about the invocation of an illegal strike.

Even though the purpose of their five-day walk out at University of California campuses was clear, it was sullied with violation of a court-issued injunction. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Mahoney doled out the order, citing that AFSCME did not give the university adequate prior notice of the strike. So while we support the union's right to protest unfair wages, their decision to do so illegally is reprehensible.

Ignoring the injunction may have bolstered the urgency of their cause. The picket lines quickly attracted the attention of students and faculty, making the union's struggles more visible. But striking unlawfully places AFSCME on shakier ground and possibly compromises their bargaining position. And jumping the gun is especially absurd considering the fact that a hearing to determine whether or not to lift the injunction was scheduled for tomorrow.

After the union's latest move, the university unquestionably has the right to retaliate. But rather than make the situation worse by retaliating against the strikers, both sides should resume negotiations. Unfair contracts still need to be revamped to ensure that our dining hall employees, custodial staff and health workers are paid wages comparable to their outside counterparts.

Both members of AFSCME and the university need to stop playing the blame game. The appropriate way to resolve the problem is through cooperation and a revisit to the bargaining table.

(dailycal.org)

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