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UC Hospital Employees, Nurses Strike, Forcing Surgery Cancellations

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UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. (CBS)

UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — About 13,000 patient care workers at the University of California’s five medical centers were holding a one-day strike Wednesday over their allegation that the university has engaged in unfair labor practices.

About 8,300 service workers at UC campuses statewide are also striking, according to Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents both groups of employees.

Graduate student instructors and other UC academic employees who belong to United Auto Workers Local 2865 are also participating in the strike.

Stenhouse alleged that UC administrators illegally harassed and intimidated service and patient care workers who went on strike for two days in May.

But UC spokeswoman Shelly Meron denied that the university engaged in unfair labor practices, stating that it asked employees ahead of time if they were going to honor the strike in May but did so only for planning purposes.

Meron said the state Public Employee Relations Board is investigating the union’s allegeations but hasn’t made any rulings and won’t even have any hearings on the matter until March.

Meron said UC’s medical centers are open Wednesday and “we’re doing all we can to make sure our patients are getting the quality care they need.”

But she said the strike is “definitely disruptive” and some elective surgeries and other procedures have had to be canceled.

Among the patient care technical workers who are on strike today are radiation therapists who treat cancer patients, pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists and technicians who operate equipment for ultrasound tests, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and mammograms.

Stenhouse said the strike “is going beyond my wildest expectations” because thousands of employees are participating in picket lines even though it’s raining across the state.

The university and the union have been in negotiations for a new contract for 18 months. Among the sticking points are retirement benefits, wages, staffing levels and worker safety.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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