SEIU members poised for walkout at UR

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Barring a settlement after a round of talks that were slated for Dec. 11 between University of Rochester and Service Employees International Union negotiators, some 1,800 union members plan a one-day walkout at UR’s River Campus and UR Medical Center facilities tomorrow.

SEIU Local 200United and 1199SEIU put the university officials on notice they would mount the Dec. 13 strike just over a week ago. The walkout is slated to last from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

With some 30,000 workers, UR is the Rochester area’s largest employer. URMC employs the bulk of the university’s workforce, some 26,000 including non-union doctors, nurses and medical researchers as well unionized support staff represented by SEIU, which has mounted a drive to organize graduate students employed by UR.

“The University has been negotiating in good faith since late August with representatives from 1199SEIU and 200United SEIU to achieve a multi-year contract renewal that is fair, competitive and equitable,” UR’s statement reads. “We continued to negotiate on Monday but despite our best efforts to reach an agreement, we expect a one-day strike will take place from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13, as previously announced.”

Contingency plans are in place to ensure that all University operations and activities, including patient care at the Medical Center, will take place without disruption, officials say.

“In the event of a prolonged strike, University officials are confident that campus operations would continue as normal without interruption. However, we are always willing and prepared to meet at the bargaining table to continue to negotiate a fair and equitable contract,” the statement says.

SEIU 200United United represents River Campus building and dining services workers, porters, cooks, library stack attendants, catering service assistants, bus and truck drivers, and stockkeepers.

1199SEIU represents a broad array of staffers—environmental service workers, nursing assistants, cooks, food service workers, dietary workers, dental assistants, drivers, patient care technicians, materials processing specialists, patient unity secretaries, porters, stockkeepers, transport assistants, transportation center workers, truck drivers, and unit support assistants—at Strong Memorial Hospital, the area’s largest hospital.

Contracts for both SEIU units followed multiple extensions, union officials say.

Citing tense negotiations, the SEIU units staged an informational picket and rally Nov. 13 and eight days later voted to authorize a strike. Union officials say 99 percent of members voted in favor of the walkout. Alleging violations of federal labor laws by the university, the SEIU units on Monday filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

“(UR) failed its workers and our community by not returning with a counter proposal today.  Their failure to bargain in good faith has forced us to issue the 10-day notice,” 1199 vice president Tracey Harrison said in a statement.  

SEIU cites wages and short staffing at Strong among top sticking points in contract talks. 

The union’s strike notice follows a successful drive by the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals to organize some 900 nurses at Rochester General. Rochester Regional Health’s flagship hospital, it is the area’s second-largest hospital.

It took RUNAP, which is not affiliated with SEIU, and RGH just over a year to agree to terms of a recently signed 42-month contract. Like SEIU members at Strong, RGH nurses cited staffing and wages as top concerns.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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