UC San Diego Unionized Workers Strike in Response to Protest Crackdowns

UC San Diego Unionized Workers Strike in Response to Protest Crackdowns

People participate in a pro-Palestinian strike at the University of California–San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)

City News Service

City News Service

6/4/2024

Updated: 6/4/2024

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SAN DIEGO—A rolling strike by unionized academic workers upset about the University of California’s response to pro-Palestinian protests at various campuses began at UC San Diego on June 3.
Workers hit the picket lines Monday morning at UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara, with UC Irvine workers expected to join the lines Wednesday.
The wave of strikes began at UC Santa Cruz, then spread last week to UCLA and UC Davis.
According to United Auto Workers Local 4811, the union represents 8,000 at UC San Diego and 5,000 workers at UC Irvine along with 3,000 at UC Santa Barbara. The union has 31,500 members at all six of the universities now targeted by the strikes.
“For the last month, UC has used and condoned violence against workers and students peacefully protesting on campus for peace and freedom in Palestine,” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW Local 4811, said in a statement. “Rather than put their energies into resolution, UC is attempting to halt the strike through legal procedures. They have not been successful, and this strike will roll on. We are united in our demand that UC address these serious ULPs, beginning with dropping all criminal and conduct charges that have been thrown at our members because they spoke out against injustice.”
On Monday, the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) again rejected a UC request for an injunction halting the strikes, which the university contends are in violation of no-strike clauses contained in the union’s contract. UC officials said they plan to take their case to court and file a breach-of-contract lawsuit.
“We are disappointed that the state agency dedicated to the oversight of public employment could not take decisive and immediate action to end this unlawful strike—a decision that harms UC’s students who are nearing the end of their academic year,” Melissa Matella, UC associate vice president for Systemwide Labor Relations, said in a statement. “Now that UC has exhausted the PERB process for injunctive relief, UC will move to state court and is hopeful for quick and decisive action so that our students can end their quarter with their focus on academics.”
Mr. Jaime on Monday accused the university of trying to “shirk responsibility” for its actions by seeking out a “friendlier forum” to pursue its objections to the strikes.
“State law is designed to give PERB jurisdiction over disputes like this one as it has the expertise in the field,” Mr. Jaime said. “UC should respect the law, return to mediation and resolve their serious unfair labor practices, instead of continuing to insist that the rules do not apply to it.”
UAW Local 4811 is asking the UC schools to give amnesty to all academic employees and students who faced arrest or disciplinary actions for protesting at campuses. The union also wants the students to have guarantees of freedom of speech and political expression on campus and is asking for researchers to be able to opt out of funding sources tied to the Israeli Defense Force.
People participate in a pro-Palestinian strike at the University of California–San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)

People participate in a pro-Palestinian strike at the University of California–San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)

“UCSD has received more than $1.2 billion from the U.S. federal government to fund defense research,” said Associate Professor Joe Hankins. “Technologies developed through research conducted on our campus are harnessed to enhance the efficiency—and the death toll—of the most central cogs in the U.S. war machine. UCSD graduate students are withholding their labor to demand an end to our complicity.”
Several pro-Israel groups on campus issued a statement, stating the strike was illegal and tied to the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, which they claim is anti-Semitic.
“In turn, they are trafficking in antisemitic tropes, which pose a threat to Jewish UCSD students who have felt under siege because of ongoing campus demonstrations,” a statement from the groups—including American Jewish Committee, Hillel UCSD, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation of San Diego and others, read. “When the protesters claim on social media ‘Our comrades in Gaza call upon us, directly, to escalate our struggle,’ they make UCSD an unsafe and unwelcoming environment for Jewish faculty and students.”
Students at UCSD established a “Gaza Solidarity” encampment on the campus’ Library Walk on May 1.
The UCSDivest Coalition, organizers of the encampment campaign, called on UCSD to “end their silence and publicly condemn the destruction of over 80% of schools and all 12 universities in Gaza in a systematic dismantling of infrastructure that UN experts have termed scholasticide,” a statement from the organization read.
On May 6, the California Highway Patrol encircled a group of protesters at the encampment, taking down tents and arresting 65 protesters, along with one injury.
Authorities declared the encampment an unlawful assembly at about 5:45 a.m. and ordered the protesters to leave. Chancellor Pradeep Khosla released a statement calling the protest an “illegal encampment,” and that the tents on Library Walk posed “an unacceptable safety and security hazard on campus.”
People participate in a pro-Palestinian strike at the University of California–San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)

People participate in a pro-Palestinian strike at the University of California–San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)

On May 8, more than 1,000 protesters marched at UCSD as a continuation of the ongoing demonstrations in support of the people of Gaza, as well as condemnations of school administration following the arrests.
Again, on May 10, UCSD students and faculty staged a walkout which saw more than 100 members of the UCSD community chant and march to Khosla’s home off campus. Many wore keffiyehs or academic dress and carried signs calling on the university to sever financial ties with Israel.
The UC system has blasted the union’s allegations and filed unfair labor practice complaints of its own, saying the union’s labor contract has a no-strike provision and that the union’s demands are outside the scope of union labor issues. The university has also rejected calls for amnesty.
“UAW’s goal to ’maximize chaos and confusion' has come to fruition, creating substantial and irreparable impacts on campuses and impacting our students at a crucial time of their education,” UC officials said in a statement Friday.
The union represents teaching assistants, readers, tutors, student researchers and academic researchers.
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