UC Davis Medical Center Union Members Gather for First Day of Strike

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SACRAMENTO -- Enthusiasm ran high Tuesday among the members of two separate unions that represent hospital service and technical jobs.

Hundreds circled the UC Davis Medical Center and the surrounding clinical buildings.

Contract negotiations have been at a standstill for a year. The University of California system says it has offered a generous contract in which, for instance, custodians earn $44,000 annually and respiratory therapists $102,000 per year with health and retirement benefits.

"Patient care is getting hit harder because they want to outsource our jobs," said operating room assistant Mohammed Akbar.

Union members say the UC system wants to contract out certain patient services.

Jasmine Tobin fears her occupational therapy unit will be disbanded.

"Therapy, social work, nursing ... So our jobs right now are at stake with the possibility of layoffs," Tobin said.

"And if you go through contract and you lay off employees and make them go through contract they lose their Medi-Cal, they lose their pension, they lose everything," Akbar said.

This is the second time the unions made a show of force. They also went out on strike in May.

But the hospital said 69 percent of workers who could have walked out stayed on the job. There was no interruption in care and the medical center used fewer fill-in workers than expected.

Patients were contacted early in anticipation of the strike.

"Made sure they knew where to come to receive services here at the UC Davis Medical Center and we're glad that they're coming," said Toby Marsh, the chief nursing and patient care services officer.

That said, the presence of picketers can be a bit intimidating for patients and hospital officials are anticipating the end of the three-day strike.

"Friday is going to be here before you know it and we're going to be back as a family caring for patients and I'm looking forward to that," Marsh said.

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