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Strike By University Of California Workers Disrupts Medical Appointments

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today is the second day of a three-day strike by workers at the University of California. Their walkout came after the university imposed a contract union members hadn't approved. The union representing 9,000 of the lowest paid service workers at UC campuses and hospitals have been working without a contract for more than a year. Shia Levitt with member station KQED reports.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Treat your workers like you should. Treat you workers like you should. Treat...

SHIA LEVITT, BYLINE: In bright green union T-shirts, more than a hundred workers and union organizers marched Monday outside UC San Francisco Medical Center. They carried signs that said equality, fairness and respect. Naomi Nakamura is a pharmacy technician at UCSF. She's here to demand higher wages and to ask UC to stop replacing career employees with lower paid outside contractors.

NAOMI NAKAMURA: These contract workers aren't properly trained to do their job, and so that is a huge liability.

LEVITT: Strikes took place at all 10 UC campuses and at five UC medical centers across California. At UCSF's medical center, thousands of patients had to reschedule appointments. Sheila Antrum is senior vice president there.

SHEILA ANTRUM: Twelve-thousand-one-hundred-and-forty chemo treatments, radiology procedures, outpatient surgeries that have been impacted and had to be rescheduled and, just in general, a major disruption.

LEVITT: Disruption for students was less evident. The strike also coincides with the start of exam week at some campuses. UC Berkeley professor Michael Burawoy says some professors are allowing students who don't want to cross the picket lines to reschedule their exams.

MICHAEL BURAWOY: We are definitely very sympathetic to the strike, and many of these students, of course, come from the similar sort of background as the workers who are striking.

LEVITT: Janitors, cafeteria staff, truck drivers and technical workers make up the AFSCME service unit. They asked for an 18 percent pay raise over three years to help offset the high cost of living in some areas. A UC statement says union members are already paid at or above market rates and called the strike ill-advised. The picket is expected to continue today and Wednesday. They'll be joined by sympathetic nurses and workers from other unions. For NPR News, I'm Shia Levitt in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "SUGAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.