UC Irvine unionized workers strike over response to pro-Palestinian protests

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
UC Irvine workers strike over response to pro-Palestinian protests
Union workers at UC Irvine joined a rolling protest of the UC system over its handling of recent campus demonstrations.

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- A rolling strike by unionized academic workers upset about the University of California's response to pro-Palestinian protests at various campuses expanded on Wednesday to UC Irvine.

The wave of strikes began at UC Santa Cruz, then spread last week to UCLA and UC Davis, followed by picket lines at UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara on Monday.

According to United Auto Workers Local 4811, the union represents 8,000 at UC San Diego and 5,000 workers at UC Irvine along with 3,000 at UC Santa Barbara. The union has 31,500 members at all six of the universities now targeted by the strikes.

"For the last month, UC has used and condoned violence against workers and students peacefully protesting on campus for peace and freedom in Palestine," Rafael Jaime, president of UAW Local 4811, said in a statement. "Rather than put their energies into resolution, UC is attempting to halt the strike through legal procedures. They have not been successful, and this strike will roll on. We are united in our demand that UC address these serious ULPs, beginning with dropping all criminal and conduct charges that have been thrown at our members because they spoke out against injustice."

On Monday, the state Public Employment Relations Board again rejected a UC request for an injunction halting the strikes, which the university contends are in violation of no-strike clauses contained in the union's contract. UC officials said they plan to take their case to court and file a breach-of-contract lawsuit.

"We are disappointed that the state agency dedicated to the oversight of public employment could not take decisive and immediate action to end this unlawful strike -- a decision that harms UC's students who are nearing the end of their academic year," Melissa Matella, UC associate vice president for Systemwide Labor Relations, said in a statement. "Now that UC has exhausted the PERB process for injunctive relief, UC will move to state court and is hopeful for quick and decisive action so that our students can end their quarter with their focus on academics."

Jaime on Monday accused the university of trying to "shirk responsibility" for its actions by seeking out a "friendlier forum" to pursue its objections to the strikes.

"State law is designed to give PERB jurisdiction over disputes like this one as it has the expertise in the field," Jaime said. "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."

UAW Local 4811 is asking the UC schools to give amnesty to all academic employees and students who faced arrest or disciplinary actions for protesting at campuses. The union also wants the students to have guarantees of freedom of speech and political expression on campus and is asking for researchers to be able to opt out of funding sources tied to the Israeli Defense Force.

The UC system has blasted the union's allegations and filed unfair labor practice complaints of its own, saying the union's labor contract has a no-strike provision and that the union's demands are outside the scope of union labor issues. The university has also rejected calls for amnesty.

A group of unionized academic workers at UCLA began the second round of strikes over the University of California's response to pro-Palestinian protests.

"UAW's goal to maximize chaos and confusion' has come to fruition, creating substantial and irreparable impacts on campuses and impacting our students at a crucial time of their education," UC officials said in a statement Friday.

The union represents teaching assistants, readers, tutors, student researchers and academic researchers.

City News Service contributed to this report.