LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A three-day strike by University of California service workers got off to a rocky start in Westwood Monday after a motorist in an SUV tried to drive through the picketers as they crossed a street.
Striking workers said the man, who has not been identified, had a stick of some sort and was waving it at people as he told them to get out of the street as they marched through the intersection of Westwood Plaza and Le Conte Avenue. One picketer said he held on to the hood of the man’s car, apparently to try and block him from driving into people.
“He was like, you know, everybody gotta move, but hundreds of people are walking by, you can’t — you can’t just run somebody over,” the picketer said. The altercation continued with the vehicle accelerating, even with the protester holding on to his hood, before he was stopped by police at gunpoint.
After he was taken into custody, the man — who wore what appeared to be some type of veterans baseball cap — was visibly upset and had to be given his inhaler by officers. The picketer was also asked to accompany officers for questioning.
UCLA Police said three picketers were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Service workers, represented by Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are on a three-day strike for a bigger annual pay raise and benefits the union says will help bridge the gap for female and minority workers.
“Most of these people have two jobs, another job besides the one that they have here,” UC radiation therapist Reuben Gomez said. “They go to work here, a lot of them go to a second job, just to make it, to survive on the wages they make here.”
In light of the impasse, the university system last month imposed contract terms on the union for the 2017-18 fiscal year, including 2 percent pay increases. The UC’s latest contract offer to the union included annual 3 percent raises over the next four years, according to the university.
The union denounced the move to impose contract terms, responding by issuing a notice of a strike set to last until Wednesday.
“We’ve bargained in good faith for over a year to address the widening income, racial and gender disparities that front-line, low-wage workers at UC are living every day,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. “Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them — leaving workers no option but to strike.”
The union represents workers such as security guards, groundskeepers, custodians, respiratory therapists, nursing aides and surgical technicians. The workers span UC’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, numerous clinics and research laboratories.
A statement from UC said in part that “AFSCME leaders are demanding a nearly 20 percent pay raise over three years – twice what other UC employees have received. The university cannot justify to taxpayers such an excessive raise, no matter how much we appreciate our service workers….”
The strike could affect some hospital operations for the next three days, postponing scheduled surgeries and causing other service hiccups.
According to the union, the strike will involve 9,000 service workers, but they will be joined by more than 15,000 Patient Care Technical workers.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)