University of California strike demands amnesty for encampment activists

UCLA strike, May 28, 2024.

For the past two weeks, members of United Auto Workers Local 4811 have been on strike against the University of California system. The union, which represents 48,000 student workers, has accused the UC administration of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) in its repression of pro-Palestine encampments. 

Unionized academic researchers, graduate teaching assistants and post-doctoral scholars are among the encampment participants who have been arrested, beaten and subjected to academic discipline.

The 2,000 student-workers at UC Santa Cruz began the strike on May 20 and were joined by UAW members at UC Davis and UC Los Angeles on May 28, bringing the total number on strike to 14,000. UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine were hit with pickets June 3. More campuses will likely join the rolling strike if its key demand, amnesty for academic workers arrested or facing school discipline for participating in protests is not met.

Officially the strike is a ULP strike, and picket line slogans pushed by the Local 4811 leadership are focused on the issues of free speech and union rights. However, many rank-and-file members are initiating chants in solidarity with Palestine. The genocide in Gaza is driving this historic strike.

In advance of the strike, the UCLA Rank and File put out a list of “expanded strike demands,” including “Cops off campus.” Participants in the UCLA encampment witnessed the Los Angeles Police Department cops look aside as right-wing Zionist vigilantes viciously assaulted them on April 30. 

The next day the LAPD forcibly shut down the encampment and arrested 210 Palestine supporters. The UAW Local 4811 leadership declined to incorporate “Cops off campus” as a strike demand. 

Calls to shut down all campuses

Many rank-and-file union members disagree with their leadership on using the rolling strike strategy in a university system. There is strong support for shutting down the entire UC system all at once, a tactic favored by the UCLA Rank and File group.

UAW Labor for Palestine, which has members involved in the strike, stated on May 26 that it “affirms the strike action UAW 4811 leadership has taken thus far and stands in solidarity with workers who are prepared to take immediate action across UC in pursuit of an end to genocide and a free Palestine.” (laborforpalestine.net

The Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at all UC universities jointly issued a call for “a strike at all University of California campuses.” (Students for Justice in Palestine Instagram)

The United All Workers for Democracy caucus said in a May 29 statement: “We are inspired that our UAW siblings are engaging in collective strike action, both to stand in solidarity with UC organizers fighting for Palestine liberation and to defend their own freedoms, and their colleagues’ and students’ freedoms, to speak out on campus.” (uawd.org)

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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