Hastings Law workers picket over contract

Nearly 100 people picketed in front of the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco’s Civic Center neighborhood Tuesday¬†afternoon to protest the fact that the law school has yet to come to a contract agreement with its employees.

San Francisco supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar joined students, labor activists and members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union Local 3299, which represents close to 100 UC Hastings employees, to protest the law school for implementing what they called illegal de facto pay cuts and refusing to budge on wage increases.

Union president Kathryn Lybarger said:

“We would like them to bargain in good faith.”

The state Public Employment Relations Board, which administers collective bargaining for California public employees, recently declared the law school and the union, which has been without a contract since June of 2013, to be at an impasse.

Union representatives say Hastings employees have done their part by agreeing to Hastings’ terms on 12 out of 28 issues, and that they should be entitled to the same wage increases that other UC employees have recently been afforded, 19.5 percent over four years.

But in a statement, Hastings Chancellor Frank Wu said UC Hastings, which is offering a 4.5 percent wage increase over the term of the contract, doesn’t have the resources of large UC universities since it is a standalone institution.

Jeff Herrera, 46, a budget coordinator in the Hastings law library for more than 18 years, said that with some employees earning as little as $22,000 a year, affording life in the Bay Area is impossible:

“The rent is going crazy. The food prices are going crazy.”

Campos told the protestors:

“I was really shocked when I learned what was happening at UC Hastings. … It is unconscionable that they have received more money than any UC, you have made concession after concession and they won’t give you a fair contract.”

Though it’s true that the state has increased funding to UC Hastings by three times more than it has to other UC institutions, the overall dollar allocation is low, according to UC Hastings spokesman Alex Shapiro:

“It is the students who are paying the bills, and it’s only by highly controlling costs have we been able to keep tuition flat for three years.”

The spokesman noted that the 4.5 percent wage increase being offered to union members is the same rate being offered to all Hastings employees:

“Our faculty and staff are first class all the way, and we’ve been bargaining with them in good faith.”

In addition to wages, retirement is another volatile topic on the table. Union leaders say UC Hastings acted illegally by increasing the rate of employee contributions to the pension plan last year. But Hastings was only complying with the policies of the UC system’s retirement program, according to Shapiro.

A mediator has been assigned to the negotiation, and both sides will move forward with the mediator in the coming weeks.