Thousands of research and technical employees held a one-day strike Thursday against the 10 University of California campuses.
The University Professional and Technical Employees,  an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, represents about 10,000 workers in the UC system. The union and the university have been in protracted negotiations for a new contract and have been trading accusations about the reasonableness of wages.
Union officials say that the university is offering only marginal increases, and is ignoring the high turnover rates -- the union says it amounts to one-third of employees annually -- among research employees.
"The UC money crunchers like the high turnover because they can continue to hire people without giving them raises," said Dominic Chan, director of the union. "But this hurts the quality of research."
Chan said that the union hoped the one-day strike would draw attention to the workers' determination to get better treatment. He also said that the university had enough money to pay decent salaries. "They get money from the state and from research grants that should be going to our salaries," he said.
"They try to shift the blame and say that it's a budget crisis, but that's not the case," Chan added.
The university indeed maintains that it can't afford to provide generous raises at this time, and it criticized the union for holding a strike. "The university is disappointed UPTE has chosen to engage in unlawful strike actions instead of continued negotiations," said Howard Pripas, UC executive director for labor relations, in a statement.  “We had hoped that the union would have finally agreed to seek the assistance of a third-party state mediator to help resolve the remaining issues.”
Officials of the union and the university agreed that pickets at various university campuses were peaceful.