UCLA, UC Davis Academic Workers Go on Strike

Thousands of academic workers at UCLA and UC Davis are going on strike in response to the University of California's handling of pro-Palestinian protests.
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Updated on May 30, 2024
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  • The union representing academic workers in the University of California (UC) system called for UCLA and UC Davis members to strike starting Tuesday, May 28.
  • Workers at UC Santa Cruz were the first campus to be called to strike last week.
  • The university says the strike is illegal because it violates the no-strike clause in the union's collective bargaining agreement.
  • The state labor board denied UC's request to end the strike, but it issued a complaint against the union.

Last week, nearly 2,000 academic workers at the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz went on strike over the university's response to pro-Palestinian protests. Now, thousands more are set to join the strike in Los Angeles and Davis, the second round of campuses to be called to action in the union's stand-up strike.

Some 48,000 academic workers across the UC system are represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) as UAW 4811, including 6,400 workers at UCLA and 5,700 at UC Davis.

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.

The union called the strike, 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).

Our ULP strike is in response to UC's unlawful actions, Anny Viloria Winnett, academic student employee unit chair of UAW 4811 at UCLA, said in a statement. ... We demand that UC respect our rights to free speech and peaceful protest embedded in our rights as university employees. We are on the right side of history, and the right side of the law.

UC has maintained 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.

Is the Strike Illegal?

On May 17, UC announced it filed a ULP charge with PERB, attempting to halt UAW 4811 and its bargaining unit members' strike activity.

Additionally, on May 21, UC requested an injunction with PERB to end the strike.

The university argued that the strike would result in irreparable harm to the institution and its students, asserting that the union is pushing for the university to concede to a list of politically motivated demands closely linked to the protests occurring across California and the nation.

PERB declined to pursue an injunction on May 23.

However, in a letter to both parties, general counsel J. Felix De La Torre wrote that the board will leave the university's request open in the event it learns of evidence or facts to support a finding that injunctive relief is just and proper.

We're glad PERB has rejected UC's latest demand for special treatment under the law, Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 4811, said in a May 23 statement. ... PERB's decision to deny their request for an injunction proves that no employer gets to make up its own rules.

Days later, UC filed an amended request for injunctive relief, asking the labor board to end the strike across the UC campuses.

The request claims that UAW members "have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activities under the guise of a strike," such as barricading academic building entrances, blocking roadways, and hitting a police officer over the head with a union sign.

"The harm UAW is imposing on students, faculty, and the University community—not to mention the bargaining relationship with the University— must end. An injunction is just and proper and PERB must pursue it," the May 29 filing read.

In a separate move, PERB filed a complaint against the union on May 23 for altering the no-strike policy in its collective bargaining agreements without prior notification to UC.

The complaint alleges that UAW 4811 modified its policy by approving and declaring a strike without providing the university with sufficient notice or the chance to meet and confer over the decision to implement the change in policy and/or the effects of the change in policy.

The complaint also says UAW 4811 failed and refused to meet and confer in good faith.

The university is pleased by this expedited action from PERB, Missy Matella, associate vice president for systemwide labor relations, said in a statement.

We have maintained from the beginning that UAW's actions violate our mutually agreed contracts. We are eager to see a quick and just resolution to this matter so that our students, faculty, and staff can end this academic quarter without further disrupting their education and progress toward degree completion.

Both parties were required to attend an informal settlement conference on May 24 in an attempt to reach a full agreement. If they can't come to an agreement, UAW 4811 and UC will have to present their arguments in a hearing before an administrative law judge.

A proposed decision from a formal hearing is binding unless appealed.

In a letter to members, the union said that executive board members met with UC on May 24 and are ready to continue once PERB sets the next mediation date.

The union also said that three more campuses would be called to strike by the end of the week if its claims of unfair labor practices are not resolved.

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