Trade workers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began a three-day strike Tuesday after their workplace allegedly required on-call hours without negotiations.
The 235 workers, all union members of the Society of Professionals, Scientists and Engineers, will stand in front of the lab's gates from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for three days this week in hopes that the lab will open up room for bargaining.
They make up a small percentage of the 6,000 workers at the lab, but union chief bargainer Steve Balke said they cover essential departments to make the lab run.
"We're all skilled trades. We're electricians, plumbers, carpenters, sheet metal workers, welders, boiler guys, handling heavy equipment, security alarms, fire alarms," Balke said. "We might be a small group but we are an integral part of this lab. We want them to know that, because right now they don't treat us that way."
Balke said on-call hours at the laboratory were voluntary for years, until workers ran into restrictions and were less incentivized to sign up.
"Most of the guys that said, 'You know what, I'm tired of jumping through hoops to go see my dentist or to go pick up my kids from school,'" Balke said. "We didn't have enough people, they didn't have enough to cover the on-call, so they said they're making it mandatory, along with those same restrictions."
In response, the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for bad faith negotiations. The board has since issued a complaint against the lab for a violation of labor laws.
"(The board) saw enough merit in that to take and bring charges against them," Balke said. "We actually have a court date with (the lab) in October with the National Labor Relations Board about their bad faith bargaining charge."
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says it has negotiated in good faith since September 2019 on the matter at hand, but negotiations have remained separated by "economic issues and management rights," acting lab spokesperson Breanna Bishop said. The laboratory does not expect the strike to have a great impact on site operations.
"We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement," Bishop said.