AFSCME Defies Court Order; Goes on Strike

According to the Sacramento Bee, about 500 AFSCME members are picketing in front of UC Davis Medical Center this morning, in defiance of a court order enjoining such a strike. When told of UC’s threat to discipline employees who defied the court order, one demonstrator replied that the possibility of discipline was a just a “rumor.”

In my opinion, all the employees who went on strike today are engaged in unprotected activity as far as state labor law is concerned. That means there is nothing prohibiting the UC from imposing discipline on employees participating in the strike. The UC would of course have to demonstrate good cause for any discipline, but I think that standard would be met by the fact that the striking employees are defying a court order. Obviously, AFSCME’s defense will be that the court order was improper. However, defying a court order in the hope that it will in the future be deemed improper is a high stakes gamble. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Also, I received several inquiries on yesterday’s blog post inquiring as to the grounds for the TRO issued by the court. It’s not entirely clear. Here is the language from the court’s order:

“1. That Defendant AFSCME Local 3299, its agents, employees, representatives, officers, organizers, committee persons, stewards, members, and all corporations, unincorporated associations, and natural persons acting in concert and participation with any of them, until a hearing or trial on a preliminary injunction, be enjoined and restrained;
a. from calling, engaging in, continuing, sanctioning, inducing, aiding, enticing, encouraging, abetting or assisting employees who are members of the Service Unit from engaging in any strike, walkout, slowdown or strike-related work stoppage of any nature against the University of California without adequate notice of the exact dates of the strike;
b. from calling, engaging in, continuing, sanctioning, inducing, aiding, enticing, encouraging, abetting or assisting employees of the Patient Care Technical Unit, including but not limited to those employed in the classifications identified in Exhibit “A,” from engaging in any strike, walkout, slowdown or strike-related work stoppage of any nature against the University of California;
c. from continuing in effect or refusing to rescind any strike, walkout, slowdown, or work stoppage, notice, call, order or sanction heretofore issued by Defendant with respect to the Service Unit strike scheduled to commence on July 14, 2008.”

AFSCME’s position is that the order only prohibits a strike without adequate notice. AFSCME argues that once it gives adequate notice, it can go on strike. This position is probably based on the language of section (a).

Section (b), however, clearly prohibits any strike by members of the Patient Care Technical Unit, irrespective of whether adequate notice is given. The basis for section (b) is most likely the threat to public health & safety.

Section (c) seems to prohibit any strike by the Service Unit beginning July 14th. As I read section (c), even if AFSCME could go on strike by giving adequate notice—as it argues it is permitted to do under section (a)—it couldn’t give notice for a strike beginning July 14th. It would have to give notice for some later date. If I was the UC or PERB, I would argue that any new notice must be for a strike occurring after the hearing on a permanent injunction, which is scheduled for July 22nd.

Therefore, as I read this order it enjoins any strike beginning July 14th and arguably enjoins any strike until July 22nd.

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