UCLA academic workers strike over response to pro-Palestinian protests

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
UCLA academic workers strike over protest response
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.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- 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.

Workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 4811 had already been striking at UC Santa Cruz in what the union called the first wave of planned walkouts. The second round of strikes began Tuesday at UCLA and UC Davis.

Early Tuesday morning, a small group of workers walked a picket line on the UCLA campus, and a major rally was planned for midday.

Workers called the strike over alleged free speech violations related to the recent demonstrations "including summoning militarized police officers from numerous outside law enforcement to violently eject and arrest peaceful protesters at UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego; making unilateral changes to standards for employee discipline, free speech rights and academic freedom; and disciplining and suspending employees engaged in peaceful protest," according to the union.

UC officials have blasted the union allegations and filed unfair labor practice complaints, 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.

In a statement released before the union's strike-authorization vote, officials at the University of California Office of the President said, "UC believes that the vote currently being conducted by UAW leadership sets a dangerous precedent that would introduce non-labor issues into labor agreements. 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."

UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications Mary Osako also issued a statement: "Our talented students are getting ready for finals, and UCLA's focus is doing whatever we can to support them. They're paying tuition and fees to learn, and we're dismayed by deliberate outside disruptions that get in the way of that. Students want to hear their professors teach, not the piercing sounds of trumpets, drums and slogans being shouted right outside their classroom windows."

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

Forty-three protesters were arrested on the third floor of a UCLA parking structure for "conspiracy to commit burglary," authorities said Monday.

UAW Local 4811 is asking the UC schools to give amnesty to all academic employees and students who face arrest or disciplinary actions for protesting. The union 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.

"That's just the bare minimum that we're asking for," said Anny Viloria Winnett, an academic union representative. "The call has been clear, it's just that they're not responding. The university is simply not engaging with us. To end the strike and to go back to our teaching, our research, we demand the university takes the first steps in addressing our concerns."

City News Service Inc. contributed to this report.