UC, California courts attempt to shut down student-worker strike

Student-workers in the University of California system, represented by United Auto Workers Local 4811, began a strike on May 20 to protest the unfair treatment of members who participated in Gaza Solidarity Encampments on their campuses. These graduate students, who perform various academic tasks, including teaching classes and grading papers, essentially struck in solidarity with Palestine.

Student-workers strike, University of California Santa Barbara, June 3, 2024. Web source: independent.com

From day one, the UC administration has tried to legally shut down this historic strike. Twice university bosses argued before the California Public Employees Relations Board that the strike was illegal. Both times, the PERB, which performs a similar function to that of the National Labor Relations Board in labor disputes involving public workers in California, ruled in favor of the UAW. 

Then the UC Board of Regents took its case to a conservative Orange County Superior Court judge, who issued a temporary restraining order to halt the strike until June 27. The judge ignored arguments from the union and the PERB that the case was outside the court’s jurisdiction.

This order does not guarantee that all Local 4811 members will go back to work. The group Rank and File for a Democratic Union, UCLA stated in a June 8 statement that: “The UC Regents, and the Democratic Party that supports them, maintain close ties to arms production, surveillance, and policing, and they are willing to subvert labor law in order to protect their investments and their power.

“We, the rank-and-file workers of UAW 4811, must not be cowed in this critical moment. If we back down, we allow the ruling class to determine how we protest unfair labor practices — and how we fight genocide. We will meet tomorrow to determine how we will respond, and we encourage all our coworkers at the University of California to join us.

“We call on the California Labor Federation and the entire labor movement to join us in fighting this calculated attack on the right to strike and on the rights of workers everywhere. We remain committed in our opposition to the U.S. war machine and the UC’s vast investments in the industries that support it. We remain committed to our strike and to the people of Palestine.” (laborforpalestine.net)

Local 4811 is getting support from around the country. The Graduate Employees Organization, American Federation of Teachers, at the University of Michigan said in a solidarity message: “Your decision to take strike action in pursuit of divestment and in solidarity with Palestinian workers is a testament to the possibility of building a global labor movement in the U.S. that does not stop fighting when anti-labor laws are mobilized to serve American imperial interests, but instead dares to pursue justice for all, across geographies. 

“As Palestinian workers lead the way for all of us, you are laying a path for a global material solidarity in line with their call. We know that victory in this strike means a victory for the Palestinian liberation movement, and for all of us. Strike to win!”

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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