A strong majority of unionized University of California service workers authorized a strike on Wednesday, raising the possibility of a job action in mid-April that would affect 7,000 workers on nine UC campuses.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 has been locked in contentious contract negotiations with the UC system for the past eight months. At least 40 issues are in play, including demands by workers for better pay and health care coverage.

The workers are mostly in service jobs, including bus drivers, housekeepers, parking lot attendants, security guards, janitors, nutritionists and groundskeepers. Voting took place from March 10-16 on-campus, including at UCLA, where 2,500 union members work. Union officials would not reveal the exact tally or the number of workers who voted, but said 92 percent of those who cast ballots approved the strike.

"If there is no movement, there will be a strike," said Nicole Moore, an organizer for Local 3299. "Members don't believe they are being treated fairly."

The sides reached an initial impasse in late January, forcing the state to appoint mediator Micki Callahan to help move talks along. She is conducting fact-finding and is expected to issue a recommendation in mid-April.

Workers want a contract that would expire Sept. 30, 2007, with pay hikes retroactive to June 30, 2004, when the prior three-year pact expired.

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