Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for UC Health Sciences and Services, made the following statement today (Nov. 18) about the impact of the scheduled Nov. 20 strike announced by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at University of California medical centers and student health centers:

By calling for a strike for a second time in seven months, AFSCME leaders again are putting patients at UC medical centers and student health centers in the middle of a labor dispute. This is completely inappropriate and unfair to the people we are here to serve. Our patients and students are not bargaining chips. They deserve better.

At the UC Board of Regents' meeting last week, union leaders emphatically claimed their strike is not about their refusal to participate in pension reform. I was reminded of the old saying, when someone tells you it's not about the money, it's always about the money.

AFSCME leaders claim their strike is to protect patients. In fact, it will do just the opposite:

  • A patient at one of our medical centers who has been waiting for a kidney transplant for more than a year will not get that transplant, which was scheduled for Nov. 20.
  • At another medical center, more than 100 patients have had elective surgeries canceled.
  • All cancer patients who were to receive treatment on Nov. 20 have had their appointments canceled, and there will be no access to regular radiology services for any patients.
  • Our medical centers may limit access to or close their Level 1 trauma centers, denying access to these specialized services for critically ill trauma patients.
  • UC emergency rooms may be on "drive by" status, which means ambulances with critically ill patients will have to travel precious minutes longer to alternative facilities to get these patients the emergency care they need.
  • Patients will wait longer to get diagnosed and treated because lab tests and therapy normally delivered by AFSCME-represented patient care technical staff won't be completed in a timely manner.
  • Additionally, UC will spend a minimum of $10 million hiring and training replacement workers to maintain basic services.

To be clear, our top priority is our patients, and all of our medical centers are preparing to ensure we provide quality care for the people who depend on us. Year after year, UC medical centers are ranked among the nation's best for providing excellent patient care — a distinction that reflects the abilities of our talented employees, our appropriate staffing levels and the attention we give our patients. We have the highest standards of excellence, and we will continue delivering care that meets those standards during this strike. Still, this strike by AFSCME will hurt the very patients the union claims to be protecting, which makes us believe it can only be about one thing: money.

The university has done everything it can to move toward labor peace and stability, but we cannot do it alone — the union must do its part. UC invited AFSCME back to the bargaining table earlier this month to try to resolve our differences. We proposed several packages responsive to the union's concerns and showed significant movement on wages, pensions, health care benefits and other issues. AFSCME rejected all of our offers.

UC has successfully reached labor agreements with other unions recently, including a tentative agreement with the California Nurses Association over the weekend, and agreements with the Federated University Police Officers Association, and UC librarians represented by the American Federation of Teachers.

We urge AFSCME to show more flexibility, as UC has, and return to the bargaining table. Strikes hurt our patients and are not the answer.