FAQ - Labor Relations
Striking is a serious matter, especially when it affects vital public services like patient care. State law requires that strikes should be considered only as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. Strikes that pose a substantial and imminent threat to public health or safety are illegal under state law. Even if a strike is legal, it may be an unfair practice under state labor law.
UC believes a strike targeting patient care employees at UC medical centers would pose an imminent threat to public health and safety and improperly withhold health care from members of the public. UC also believes AFSCME has not, in good faith, explored all options through the bargaining process. Further UC considers it highly inappropriate for AFSCME to threaten patient care as a tactic in contract negotiation.
Yes. In 2008, AFSCME leaders called on UC patient care employees to strike at all five UC medical centers. UC petitioned the Public Employment Relations Board, the state agency that oversees public sector collective bargaining, to request a restraining order against the strike on UC's behalf. PERB issued a complaint against AFSCME for bad-faith bargaining and for encouraging employees to strike even though their absence from work would clearly endanger the public's safety. The Superior Court of San Francisco issued a restraining order prohibiting the union's strike.
If AFSCME's strike is deemed illegal or unprotected then other unions joining the strike would also be engaging in illegal or unprotected activity. Also many of UC's labor contracts contain "No Strikes" provisions so any union with such a contract who joins AFSCME's strike would be in violation of its own contract.
No employee is ever under any obligation to strike. Unions are legally prohibited from threatening or coercing members in other ways to keep them from coming to work. However, some unions have the right to levy fines against members, but not agency fee payers, who choose to work during a strike, including a sympathy strike. The employee needs to contact her/his local union representative regarding possible penalties for union members not striking.
Under California law, if there is no contract in effect between the University and the employee organization, an employee in that bargaining unit is free to resign his/her membership from the employee organization. However, the issue of union membership is also governed by the rules and bylaws of the employee organization. Employees should check with their union representatives regarding this issue, including the correct procedure for resigning union membership.
At Berkeley, picketers have always been committed to their position but respectful of the rights and views of others. Pickets are lawful so long as they are peaceful, conducted only on public property (i.e., sidewalks), do not block access for other employees, do not interfere with the normal course of business, and do not prohibit non-striking employees from working. The University will assist employees who want to work by providing security or transportation across the picket lines. In addition, non-striking employees should avoid confrontations and need not respond to any comments that picketers may direct at them. Non-striking employees should not invite or engage in any exchanges, which might inflame the situation. If an employee feels s/he is being harassed or prevented from working by picketers or striking employees, the employee should notify their supervisor or the Berkeley campus Labor Relations office (510-643-6001) (email@example.com).
Employees who come to work will receive their normal compensation and benefits.
Employees will not be paid for time lost due to participating in a strike. Employees will not be allowed to use accrued Compensatory Time Off (CTO) or vacation leave to cover strike days. Benefits that are affected by the percentage of time worked during the month may be affected. Please see special separate provisions regarding employees who call in sick on a strike day.
UC has a long tradition of respecting the civil expression of individual views, and individual employees are free to express their rights so long as such participation is on their personal time, does not conflict with their agreed upon work duties, or violate established University policies.
The University will presume absences from work during any declared strike period are strike related, and authorization for an absence from work during the strike period may not be given depending on operational needs and applicable policies or collective bargaining agreements. Employees who are absent from work without authorization during a strike may face the possibility of disciplinary action for cause if the strike is unlawful or unprotected activity.
The University and AFSCME have concluded the fact-finding process which involved presenting the disputed bargaining issues to a three member panel. The panel will issue an advisory non-binding report that is designed to assist the University and AFSCME in reaching an agreement through additional negotiations. If these negotiations following the conclusion of fact-finding are unsuccessful, the employer may unilaterally impose some or all of its bargaining proposals, and the union may attempt to call a strike. It is important to remember that the University continues to work hard to reach a negotiated agreement that is fair to the PCT bargaining unit and protects the interests of University Medical Centers.
The University may take reasonable and prudent actions to prepare for a strike such as hiring temporary employees or reassigning work. However, all plans should be made in consultation with your labor relations department. In general, all actions must be consistent with applicable contract provisions and firmly based on operational necessity.
The University will presume that – absent medical certification – absences from work during any declared strike period are strike related. Authorization for absence from work (e.g., vacation leave) may or may not be given depending on operational necessity and without regard to the employee's reason for the requested leave. Departments may ask employees who state that they are ill on a strike day to bring in medical verification of illness.
In UC's view, the key issue blocking a deal is AFSCME's objections to UC's pension reforms, which include:
- Increased contributions toward the cost of pension benefits from both UC and employees (currently 10 and 5 percent respectively, increasing to 12 and 6.5 percent respectively July 1, 2013).
- A new category ("tier") of pension benefits for employees hired on or after July 1, 2013.
- Revised eligibility rules for retiree health benefits.
Like many employers, including the State of California, UC is enacting pension reforms to help address a $24 billion unfunded liability to its retirement programs, and enable UC to continue to offer pension benefits that adequately recognize employees' service and also are financially sustainable.
UC's reforms apply to tenure-track faculty and staff hired on or after July 1, 2013. Eight UC unions representing 14 bargaining units have agreed to these reforms. UC's pension reforms are also similar to what has been implemented for state employees, some of whom are represented by AFSCME. AFSCME has not accepted any of UC's proposals, and is demanding its members pay less than other UC employees for the same benefits which UC believes is unfair to other employees.
UC is offering a competitive total economic package for patient care employees that includes:
- Up to 3.5 percent annual wage increase for the next four years – increases that are on top of the 5 percent wage increases AFSCME members received in each of the last two years, a time when many other UC employees received smaller increases or no increases.
- Excellent health care benefits.
- Quality pension and retiree health benefits that few public or private organizations nationwide offer.
As the bargaining record shows, UC has been bargaining in good faith with AFSCME for nearly a year. Negotiations have included help from a state mediator and a neutral fact-finder. UC remains open to compromise and is committed to reaching a fair and financially responsible contract for employees, but UC cannot do it alone. AFSCME leaders must engage in a substantive way.
Absolutely. Your manager is another source for answers and information.
Under the law, unless one has been designated a conscientious objector, payment of union dues or the Agency Fee is a condition of employment. Employees who refuse to pay the dues/fee cannot remain University employees.
The Agency Fee may be rescinded (or eliminated) by a majority vote in a secret ballot election of all employees in a particular bargaining unit. To hold an election, a petition must be served on the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) containing signatures of at least 30% of the employees in that bargaining unit. No more than one vote can be taken during the term of any contract in effect on or after January 1, 2000.
No, under the law the fees will be automatically deducted like taxes and Social Security.
If an employee is a member of a bona fide religion, body or sect that has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting public employee organizations, the employee should contact his or her union to seek exemption from the Agency Fee. Exempt employees are required to donate an amount equivalent to the Agency Fee to one of three non-religious, non-labor charities designated jointly by the union and the University. The union is solely responsible for deciding the employee's objector status. If the employee does not know what union to contact, Human Resources' Labor Relations Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) can assist.
Limited appointment employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are subject to the deduction. Students in limited positions are thus also subject to the fee. Students in casual/restricted positions are not covered by collective bargaining agreements and are, therefore, not subject to the fee.
All University employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement who are not currently paying union dues could be required to pay the Agency Fee. The following unions have opted to implement Agency Fees:
- AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) for employees covered by the Service and Patient Care Technical labor agreements
- CNA (California Nurses Association) for employees covered under the Nurse agreement
- CUE (Coalition of University Employees) for employees covered under the Clerical agreement
- GCU (Graphics Communications Union) for employees covered under the Printing Trades labor agreements
- UAW (United Auto Workers) for employees covered under the Academic Student Employees agreement
- UPTE (University Professional and Technical Employees) for employees covered under the Technical, Staff Research Professional, and Hospital Professional Residual labor agreements
- UC-AFT (American Federation of Teachers) for employees covered under the Non-Senate Instructional and Librarian Memoranda of Understanding
A union is an organization which has as one of its purposes to collectively bargain the wages, hours and conditions of employment of a particular group of employees. It acts as your exclusive representative for these purposes. In order for the union to become your exclusive representative, a sufficient number of employees must show an interest in being represented.
If, through the representation process, the union represents you, it also represents all employees like you throughout the UC system. The union has the authority and the exclusive right to negotiate with UC management on the amount of wages, benefits and working conditions that the employees will receive. The legal power to negotiate as an individual would change and the union would become the agent for all employees in the bargaining unit. Once the union represents you, potential wage increases could be less a matter of individual performance and achievement, and would be the outcome(s) of the collective bargaining process.
There are two ways that this can occur.
A union can collect enough authorization cards from you and your coworkers. It will need to collect cards from over 50% of the designated group of employees (called a bargaining unit) to automatically become your collective bargaining representative.
It can also happen by a vote. In order for a vote to happen, the union would have to collect authorization cards from at least 30% of the bargaining unit. Then the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) would hold an election. In order for the union to win the election, 50% of the employees who vote would have to vote in favor of unionization. If that happened, you would be represented by the union.
An authorization card is a document giving your permission for the union to represent you and requires your signature.
It means you are choosing the union to act as your representative. A union may submit these cards to PERB, and based on a card check and not an election, become your exclusive representative if it obtains a majority of signed authorization cards. If a union obtains less than a majority but more than 30% of signed authorization cards, there will be an election.
Yes. If the union submits enough cards (50%+1), then there will be no election and the Union would be legally certified as exclusive representative for all employees in the bargaining unit. There would be no opportunity to vote.
Yes. There is such a process called decertification, which is also driven by employee choice. This process is complex and can take a long period of time. It requires the filings of a certain amount of cards and a subsequent election.
The University would not and cannot be involved in this process.
No. If the union is certified as your bargaining representative, you will have the option of joining the union or being represented by the union.
If you are a member, you have the right to vote on union business. You can elect union officials, vote on negotiation issues depending on the union, or ratify the collective bargaining agreement.
If you are not a member, then the union will represent you without your voting.
No. If the union collects enough cards, there will be no election and there will be no vote. Then your signature on the authorization card is your vote for the union. But if the union does not get enough cards, and there is an election, you may vote your opinion as of the date of the election. You are not bound to vote for the union on the basis of your signature.
Under current PERB case law, authorization cards cannot be revoked.
If the union collects more than 30% of the signed authorization cards but less than a (50%) majority, PERB will hold an election. You will have two ballot choices:
- "No Representation" – this means you DO NOT WANT unionization
- The union’s name– this means YOU DO WANT unionization
Whichever option receives a simple majority of the votes cast wins. If a majority of those voting select "No Representation" you will continue to participate in the University's personnel programs for non-represented employees.
No. A majority of the employees actually voting determines the outcome. If only 100 people vote, then only 51 need to say yes. They would end up deciding for every other employee in the group. This is why you should make sure to vote.
No, if your position is included in the bargaining unit, you may – and should – vote.
The University adheres to the principle that representation by a union is a matter of employee choice.
UC supports employees’ rights to determine for themselves whether or not they think unionization is beneficial. The University believes that its role is to ensure that you have an informed choice when faced with this important decision and to ensure that you understand the process.
No. Membership in the union is up to you. By law you cannot be forced to join the union. However, you will have to pay something to the union for its representation. These are called “agency fees”. The amount depends on the union.
Generally, once a union is certified, all employees represented by that union are subject to paying either dues or fees.
The union determines the amount of dues and fees. The union would be able to inform you about their current dues structure. If you have questions about the dues structure, then you should make further inquiries directly to the union.
Each union has its own rules about whether all employees or only union members (i.e., dues-payers) can express their views on contract matters.
All wage issues will be subject to the collective bargaining process.
No. These matters are part of the negotiations process between the University and any union certified to represent a unit of University employees.
You have several options. As long as you are not using work time or an inappropriate location where you are interfering with operations, you can make your opinions known.
You can make a decision to sign an authorization card if you are in favor of having a union as your exclusive representative. You may also choose not to sign an authorization card if you are not in favor of it.
If there is an election, you can vote for union representation or you can vote against it.
Proof of Service is a method of verifying that a document has been transmitted to an individual, union, or an individual's representative.
A Proof of Service may be required under certain provisions of a collective bargaining agreement or the Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM). Managers and supervisors should review the appropriate article or policy when taking an action. In addition, a Proof of Service is required for management responses to employee grievances.
When delivery is to be made by personal presentation, the person who will actually deliver the document(s) should complete the Proof of Service - Personal Delivery (Word) form and hand the document to the addressee. Some points to remember:
- The individual who signs the Proof of Service must actually hand the document to the addressee.
- The signator on the Proof of Service cannot be a party to the subject matter of the document. In other words, the supervisor signing the discipline letter cannot sign the Proof of Service.
- The signator to the Proof of Service should not be a bargaining unit employee or a subordinate of the individual to whom the document is addressed. When Personal Delivery is used, a supervisor should have another supervisor handle the delivery.
- A copy of the Proof of Service form(s) should be attached to copies of the transmitted documents that will be retained in the department. If responding to an employee grievance, a copy of the response and Proof of Service form(s) should be sent to the Labor Relations Specialist assigned to the case.
When delivery is by United States Mail, the person who is going to mail the document fills out the Proof of Service - Mail Delivery (Word) form and mails it with the document. Some points to remember:
- The envelope should be addressed to the employee's last known address.
- The signator on the Proof of Service cannot be a party to the subject matter of the document. In other words, the supervisor signing the discipline letter cannot sign the Proof of Service. Also, the signator to the Proof of Service should not be a bargaining unit employee or a subordinate of the individual to whom the document is addressed.
- The person signing the form should place the document(s) in the envelope, including a copy of the Proof of Service, seal it, and affix sufficient US Postage to insure First Class delivery.
- The person signing the Proof of Service form should deposit the envelope in a United States Postal Service (USPS) deposit box before the last scheduled pickup on the date the Proof of Service is signed.
- A copy of the Proof of Service form(s) should be attached to copies of the transmitted document that will be retained in the department. If responding to an employee grievance, a copy of the response and Proof of Service form(s) should be sent to the Labor Relations Specialist assigned to the case.
- Work Address - Signator of Proof of Service form should identify his/her campus address (include city, state, and zip code).
- Date of Delivery - The date the document is handed to the employee.
- Date of Mailing - The date the document is placed in the USPS Mail box.
- Subject of Document - Identify document (Example: Intent to Dismiss).
- Name of Recipient - The name of the individual to whom the document is being personally delivered via Proof of Service.
- Location of Recipient - Identify the work location of the recipient if delivered at work (Example: Physics, 366 LeConte Hall, University of California at Berkeley).
- Name, street address, city, state, and zip code - Identify the name of the individual to whom the document is being mailed and the individual's mailing address.
- Name/Signature - The name of the individual who will be handling the Proof of Service.