Home News UC students OK strike over university’s response to protests

UC students OK strike over university’s response to protests


By Parker Purifoy and Maxwell Adler | Bloomberg

Thousands of unionized graduate student workers at University of California campuses across the state are poised to walk off the job after members voted to authorize leadership to call a strike, escalating tensions stemming from the university’s response to pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

United Auto Workers Local 4811, which represents the students, said Wednesday that 79% of participating members approved the strike authorization.

It would be the fourth work stoppage among UC graduate student workers. The last one, in November 2022, was the largest strike in the history of higher education—all 48,000 members walked off the job for six weeks, culminating in a new contract with a more than 50% raise to workers’ base pay.

RELATED: Pro-Palestinian protesters take over abandoned UC Berkeley building

“The university violated their obligation to protect student-workers’ right to free speech and their freedom from discrimination for their political view viewpoints,” UAW Local 4811 President Rafael Jamie said in an interview. “The university engaged in unlawful action, unlawful practices throughout by changing its policy pertaining to protests on campus, and discriminated against those expressing pro-Palestinian views.”

The strike vote comes as unions representing academic workers are ratcheting up the pressure on universities over how they’ve handled pro-Palestinian protests at over 100 campuses across the nation.

Graduate student unions at Brown University, Harvard University, and the University of Southern California have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor matters involving private-sector employers.

UAW Local 4811 is calling on the UC system to reach an agreement that gives amnesty to all academic employees and students who face disciplinary action or arrest for protesting, solidifies a right to free speech and political expression on campus, and allows researchers to opt out of funding sources tied to the Israeli Defense Force.

Union leadership is also calling on the university to disclose and unwind all its known investments in weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and companies profiting from the Israel-Hamas war.

Officials at the University of California Office of the President said in a statement before the vote that the union’s demands fall outside the scope of negotiation for employment.

“UC believes that the vote currently being conducted by UAW leadership sets a dangerous precedent that would introduce non-labor issues into labor agreements,” the statement said. “If a strike is allowed for political and social disputes, the associated work stoppages would significantly impact UC’s ability to deliver on its promises to its students, community and the State of California.”

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