News

University of California Sues Union Backing Campus Strikes

University of California Sues Union Backing Campus Strikes

Pro-Palestinian strikers at UC San Diego on June 3, 2024. (Philip Zhu)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

6/7/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

0

The University of California system filed a lawsuit on June 3 against the United Auto Workers (UAW) 4811—the union representing the strikers—seeking a temporary restraining order after graduate students and academic researchers went on strike at its campuses.
The university is arguing that the strikes—which have now spread to six campuses—are a violation of no-strike clauses in existing collective bargaining agreements between the union and the university.
“The blatant breach of the parties’ no-strike clauses by UAW will continue to cause irreversible harm to the university as it will disrupt the education of thousands of students in the form of canceled classes and delayed grades,” Melissa Matella, associate vice president for Systemwide Labor Relations, said in a June 5 statement.
“The breach of contract also endangers life-saving research in hundreds of laboratories across the university and will also cause the university substantial monetary damages.”
The complaint alleges that the workers now on strike “play a critical role in teaching classes, leading discussion sections and labs, and grading the work of nearly 200,000 undergraduate students, as well as engaging in critical research.”
On May 15, the union voted to authorize a systemwide strike, and workers at the Santa Cruz campus walked off the job on May 20.
Two more campuses—Davis and Los Angeles—joined the strike on May 28, and Irvine, Santa Barbara, and San Diego joined on May 31.
Statements from union officials point to unfair employment practices, while the lawsuit alleges the strikes are attempts to force the university to divest from companies doing business with Israel and aren’t related to employment conditions.
UC-Santa Cruz graduate students and other academic workers in the UAW 4811 union begin a strike at the main entrance to campus, in Santa Cruz, Calif. on May 20, 2024. (Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

UC-Santa Cruz graduate students and other academic workers in the UAW 4811 union begin a strike at the main entrance to campus, in Santa Cruz, Calif. on May 20, 2024. (Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

Strikes are expected to last until at least June 30, according to union statements.
The complaint alleges that the stoppages will prove detrimental to students who began finals in the first week of June and will cause the university to suffer “severe and irreparable harm.”
Now embroiled in labor disputes, the university system was affected by encampments across its campuses due to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza.
The protests and encampments were allowed for months, but when administrators determined they were threatening the safety and security of faculty and students, a decision was made to issue notices to disperse.
Those who failed to comply were arrested, with law enforcement officials and protesters clashing on some campuses.
In May, the union began pursuing strikes to stop the university’s “crackdown on free speech.”
After learning of the group’s intentions, the university responded with requests to block such actions because of perceived violations of contractual agreements.
When the university’s attempts to stop the strikes were twice denied by California’s Public Employment Relations Board, the system filed its lawsuit in the state’s Superior Court—seeking adjudication in Orange County.
Union leaders said the strike is necessary to protect workers’ and students’ rights.
“As we have made clear from the beginning, we are standing up against UC’s violent crackdown on our right to free speech and peaceful protest embodied in our employment rights,” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 4811, said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.
“UC has caused our co-workers to be maced, beaten, arrested, and barred from work for peacefully demonstrating. We cannot accept UC’s serious unfair labor practices. We have to protect our fundamental employment rights.”
He argued that the university should have abided by the employment board’s decisions and suggested that the move to sue the union was unnecessary and unprecedented.
“UC continues to shirk accountability for the violence it has caused and allowed against union members and the campus community,” Mr. Jaime wrote on X on June 3. “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.”
Some striking workers at the Irvine campus said the union is not going far enough and are suggesting the strike could continue beyond June 30.
“We are not interested in the dictates and boundaries of the [unfair labor practices] strike, as we challenge its basic premises and assumptions and how UAW elected leadership has strategized and engaged the strike thus far,” a rank and file collective of workers wrote on June 4 on X.
“We recognize that building a collective infrastructure to sustain our withholding of labor beyond June 30th and transform and sustain the consciousness of the campus requires an unwavering commitment to one another, those in Palestine, and those who encounter and endure empire across the world.”
They said their support of Palestinian liberation is unwavering and their actions are meant to educate others on campus.
“As employees and researchers at the UC, withholding our labor from the war profiteering entity is the minimum. There’s no doubt about that,” the collective said. “With the spark of the moment, our withholding of labor can start the prairie fire needed to effectively transform the consciousness of the campus.”
A decision is expected from the court at any time, which could force strikers to return to work. If that happens, the union says it will appeal.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

Author

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.