US

University of California Workers May Strike After UCLA Raid


The largest employee union in the University of California system said on Thursday that it was preparing to ask some or all of its members to authorize a strike over the treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The announcement by United Auto Workers Local 4811, which represents some 48,000 graduate student teaching assistants, researchers and other student workers across the state, came hours after police officers arrested about 200 demonstrators at U.C.L.A. for failing to leave.

U.A.W. 4811 intends to file unfair labor practices charges that, in essence, accuse U.C.L.A. of discriminating against pro-Palestinian speech and unilaterally changing policies protecting employees’ free speech without bargaining, said Rafael Jaime, the union’s co-president and a Ph.D. candidate in the university’s English department.

The group said the university failed to protect union members who were among the pro-Palestinian student protesters when counterprotesters attacked an encampment that had stood since April 25.

Mr. Jaime said he was at the encampment Tuesday night as counterprotesters tore down barricades and shot fireworks at pro-Palestinian demonstrators, and that he was hit by pepper spray. Campus police on site did not intervene, and reinforcements from the Los Angeles Police Department and California Highway Patrol did not arrive for hours. No arrests were made.

The lack of response was quickly denounced by local leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as by students and faculty members.

“The university was nowhere to be seen for hours and hours,” Mr. Jaime said. “They just stood there and allowed our co-workers to be brutalized.”

On Wednesday night, dozens of police officers in riot gear arrived to disperse protesters who remained at the pro-Palestinian encampment. Mr. Jaime said officers shot projectiles into the crowd of protesters and forcefully arrested students. He said he did not know how many union members had been arrested.

and forcefully arrested students, including union members.

Arresting some 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators while not arresting any counterprotesters who assaulted them, he said, amounted to prioritizing anti-Palestinian speech over pro-Palestinian speech, which violated the rights of university employees to free speech.

Mr. Jaime said that the union could call a strike authorization vote as early as next week, but he emphasized that it was too early to say whether a strike would include union members across the University of California system or just at U.C.L.A.

Officials at the University of California Office of the President said in a statement that the union could not legally engage in a work stoppage and expressed frustration that the union would “exploit” the situation.

The statement said that “the University of California is deeply alarmed, concerned and disappointed that our UAW-represented academic employees would choose this moment of crisis to take a vote to engage in an unlawful work stoppage.” Officials added that the university “values these employees and asks them to join it in supporting our communities at this time.”

The union’s members do much of the day-to-day work across the vast University of California system, which serves nearly 300,000 students, has some of the nation’s top researchers and is often referred to as the “crown jewel” of the state. The academic workers grade papers, lead discussion sessions and conduct research.

But the university employees often struggle with the cost of living in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. In 2022, the union’s members — then split into two locals — walked off the job for six weeks in one of the largest strikes by university-based workers in national history.

The union called for a cease-fire in Gaza in October, making it part of an early wave of unions declaring support for Palestinians.



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