The union representing nearly 13,000 University of California patient-care workers announced plans Friday to strike later this month, but UC officials said they would seek a restraining order to prevent any such action.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees3299 issued a 10-day notice to the UC Office of the President and set the strike date for May 21 and 22. The union represents respiratory therapists, licensed vocational nurses, pharmacy technicians and other workers at both the campuses and the medical centers.

Union officials said the university is putting profits above patient safety and that workers want better staffing and pay. "This strike is about standing up for the students, patients and taxpayers the UC Medical System was intended to serve,” union President Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement.

UC officials said they believe a strike at the medical centers would pose an “imminent threat to public health and safety” and that it should be used as a last resort. They defend the safety record at the UC medical centers and said the union is trying to divert attention from the key sticking point of pension reform.

Dwaine Duckett, UC’s vice president for systemwide human resources, said in a statement the union should return to the bargaining table rather than threaten a strike. “It is highly inappropriate for AFSCME to threaten services to patients as a tactic in negotiations about pension benefit reforms,” he said.

The strike announcement comes after nearly a year of negotiations between the workers and UC over staffing, pay and pension reforms. The contract expired in September.

Union officials said they created a task force to respond to “unforeseen medical contingencies” during the strike.

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