LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — About 13,000 University of California hospital workers voted to go on strike March 24, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The strike was met with 97 percent support from the patient care technical employees, who claim the UC system has unilaterally implemented contract terms and benefit cuts, as well as made a demand for new layoff powers.

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The union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the university.

“By repeatedly and illegally subverting the collective bargaining process, UC has created unnecessary conflict and sabotaged our good faith efforts to improve patient care at UC hospitals,” Randall Johnson, a union leader and MRI technologist at UC San Francisco, said. “The frontline workers we represent know that if left unchallenged, UC’s serial lawbreaking will ultimately endanger the patients we serve. And we are not going to let that happen.”

The vice president of UC human resources, Dwaine Duckett, said using patient care as bargaining chips has become a continuing tactic for AFSCME leaders.

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“This is patently unfair to the people we serve and our other dedicated hospital workers,” he said. “Our patients are not bargaining chips, and strikes are disruptive to the entire medical center community.”

AFSCME said it will leave 49 employees in place in critical positions. In addition, they will form a task force to respond to any urgent medical problems.

The UC system includes hospitals in San Diego, Davis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Irvine.

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