LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Doctors for student health centers at 10 University of California campuses staged a rare one-day strike on Tuesday, upset that administrators have failed to give their union information the physicians said they needed to negotiate their first contract.
The Union of American Physicians and Dentists, their collective bargaining organization, said it marked the first time in 25 years that licensed medical doctors had gone on strike in the United States.
Physicians for the student health centers formed a union in November 2013 and have been in talks since then aimed at reaching their first contract.
Dr. Charles McDaniel, a psychiatrist at the UCLA center and a spokesman for the group, said the UC administration has dragged its feet in furnishing basic information needed for the talks such as details on discretionary budgets of the university chancellors and a breakdown of how student fees are spent.
“We asked them for the information and we get stonewalled,” he said, speaking by phone from a picket line at UCLA.
The union rank-and-file consists of roughly 150 health professionals who work at student health centers at all 10 UC schools, providing services such as flu shots, emergency care and counseling, McDaniel said.
The bargaining group does not represent physicians for large hospitals that serve the general public at several of the university system’s campuses, so those big medical centers and their emergency care are unaffected by the job action.
Administrators at the 10-campus health centers are also licensed doctors, and they were available to provide emergency care to any student needing it, union and UC officials said.
The health center physicians plan to return to work on Wednesday, but McDaniel said more work stoppages were possible in the future.
UC spokeswoman Shelly Meron said that university officials had advance notice of the strike and rescheduled appointments that were not urgent.
“We see this as a hasty strike that is simply a negotiating tool,” Meron said. “We don’t believe the issues warrant a strike that impacts students.”
The campus health center physicians are paid on average $150,000 a year, she said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Alan Crosby