UC San Diego, Santa Barbara, Irvine Academic Workers Join Strike

Despite the University of California's repeated claims that the strike is illegal, another 16,000 academic workers have joined the strike this week in response to the university's handling of pro-Palestinian protests.
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Published on June 5, 2024
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  • The union representing academic workers in the University of California (UC) system called for UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara members to strike starting Monday, June 3.
  • UC Irvine workers joined the strike on Wednesday, June 5.
  • Workers at UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, and UC Davis are already on strike.
  • The university says the strike is illegal because it violates the no-strike clause in the union's collective bargaining agreement.

This week, over 30,000 academic workers across the University of California (UC) system are expected to be on strike over the university's response to pro-Palestinian protests.

The workers are represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) as UAW 4811.

Workers at UC San Diego and Santa Barbara walked off the job starting Monday, June 3 in the latest expansion of the union's stand-up strike. Union members at UC Irvine followed on Wednesday, June 5. The three campuses add about 16,000 academic workers to the ongoing strike.

In a stand-up strike, the UAW 4811 Executive Board has the authority to call campuses to strike at certain times, rather than calling all workers to strike simultaneously. Workers at UC Santa Cruz were the first to be called to strike on May 20. UCLA and UC Davis followed on May 28.

The union called for a strike authorization vote in mid-May, alleging that UC violated members' free speech rights when it cracked down on the pro-Palestinian protests and encampments.

The union said UC endangered union members' well-being and unilaterally changed working conditions. It has filed multiple unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against UC with the state's Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

We have been beaten and arrested for calling for peace and exercising our right to free speech, Joyce Chan, a postdoctoral student in the neurosciences department at UC San Diego said in a union press release.

To stop the spread of this strike, UC needs to make serious progress toward resolving these ULPs, beginning with the withdrawal of all criminal and disciplinary charges against our coworkers who have been arrested for protesting peacefully.

State Labor Board Intervenes

On June 3, PERB issued a complaint against UC, outlining the alleged unfair labor practices committed by the university including discrimination, unilateral changes to speech and discrimination policies, unilateral changes to teaching obligations, and discouraging membership in employee organizations.

The complaint comes after PERB rejected a second injunction request from the university to end the strike. UC maintains that the stand-up strike is illegal as it violates the no-strike provision in the union's collective bargaining agreements that prevents strikes which interfere directly or indirectly with university operations during the contract's term.

UC continues to shirk accountability for the violence it has caused and allowed against union members and the campus community, Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 4811, said in a statement. Now that UC's second request for injunctive relief has been denied after a fair and thorough deliberation by PERB, the University has decided to ignore the authority of what their own press release calls the state agency dedicated to the oversight of public employment.

Melissa Matella, associate vice president for systemwide labor relations, said in a statement that the university was disappointed in PERB's decision and that the continuing strike harms UC's students who are nearing the end of their academic year.

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, Matella said.

The university has filed for strike damages and a temporary restraining order in the Orange County Superior Court in hopes of ending the strike, according to a union press release.

Two weeks ago, PERB filed a complaint against the union, claiming it altered the no-strike policy in its collective bargaining agreements without prior notification to UC.

Both parties were required to attend an informal settlement conference on May 24 in an attempt to reach a full agreement. Similarly, the latest complaint requires both UC and UAW 4811 to attend another informal settlement conference. The union says it is waiting for PERB to set the next mediation date.

The majority of UC campuses are in session until mid-June, except for Berkeley and Merced, which have ended their academic year. Despite undergraduates leaving campus at the end of the semester, many unionized graduate student workers will be present throughout the summer and can continue to engage in a work stoppage if the strike has not ceased.

Union leadership warns that the strike will continue to expand if the university does not make progress in resolving the unfair labor practices filed against them.

The remaining UC campuses in Merced, San Francisco, Riverside, and Berkeley, as well as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, are currently under consideration to join the strike.