After strike, U of California workers urge guest speakers to boycott school events

The University of California’s largest employee union is calling for a boycott of school speaking engagements, according to AFSCME Local 3299.

The union represents more than 24,000 employees at the University of California's 10 campuses, five medical centers, various clinics, research laboratories and UC Hastings College of the Law.

The union is seeking the boycott as the university has started naming guest speakers ahead of spring graduation ceremonies. Scheduled guest speakers include former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.

The call for a boycott comes after a strike by service and patient care workers that began April 10. In an unfair labor practice charge, members of AFSCME Local 3299 accuse the university of workplace retaliation, threats of police citation and other actions that interfere with their rights.

"The University of California has used intimidation tactics to keep workers from protesting over outsourcing and income inequality instead of negotiating in good faith," AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. "We do not tolerate bullying. If invited speakers feel the same way, then they'll honor this boycott of UC events."

It is wrong for AFSCME leaders to resort to the tactic of undermining graduation ceremonies and exploiting this special milestone, which belongs squarely to our hardworking students and their families.

Claire Doan, spokesperson with the university's office of the president, spoke against the union's actions. 

"AFSCME leaders can try to spin their alleged reasons for demanding a speakers boycott, but their actions – including four disruptive strikes in less than a year and a refusal to truly negotiate – make clear their self-interested agenda. The union is demanding a 36 percent increase over four years; that is nearly triple the raises the university has given to other employees," she said in an emailed statement to Becker's. 

Ms. Doan added that the university wants the union "to support and honor our deserving students at this momentous time in their lives," rather than call for a speakers boycott.



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