University of California academic workers expand strike over response to pro-Palestinian protests

The University of California’s (UC) academic workers union expanded its ongoing strike Tuesday to UCLA and UC Davis, bringing the total walkouts to about 12,000 individuals.

The union, which represents 48,000 academic and graduate workers of the UC system, escalated its ongoing standoff Tuesday morning to three campuses, just over a week after as many as 2,000 union members began picketing at UC Santa Cruz, according to Cal Matters.

About 60 United Auto Workers (UAW) union Local 4811 members were picketing by 9 a.m. Tuesday at UCLA’s Royce Quad, where clashes broke out last month when a group of pro-Israeli protesters tried to dismantle a pro-Palestinian encampment. Police entered the encampment hours after the violence broke out, arresting some involved.

Picketing began simultaneously at UC Davis on Tuesday, the union confirmed on social media.

Union members are protesting the UC system’s response to the pro-Palestinian protests on campus, which led to the arrests and suspensions of several students and some union members. Union members argue their free speech rights were violated when UC system leaders called in police to forcibly remove the pro-Palestinian encampments, The Los Angeles Times reported last week.

Striking workers at the various campuses carried signs Tuesday reading “UAW on strike. Unfair labor practice.”

The union is demanding “amnesty” for all academic employees, students, student groups, faculty and staff who face disciplinary action or arrest due to protest,” along with the protection of free speech and political expression on campus.

It is also calling for divestment from UC’s “known investments in weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and companies profiting from Israel’s war on Gaz,” and disclosure of all of the UC system’s funding sources and investments.

The union quickly filed an unfair labor practice charge against UCLA following the clashes earlier this month and later submitted similar violations over police action at UC San Diego and UC Irvine encampments.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for UC Davis told The Hill, “Our undergraduate students are working hard to prepare for the end of the academic term after a challenging year, and we are committed to maintaining a campus environment that supports their success.”

Last week, the UC Office of the President said it is “disappointed” in the UAW’s continued strike, claiming it violates agreements in their contracts that include no-strike clauses “to advance issues that have no bearing on employment at UC.”

“We are working with campus administrators to minimize disruption as much as possible, but it is inevitable and unfortunate, especially amidst an already stressful quarter and educational experience for students,” the office wrote in a statement.

Mary Osako, UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications, told The Hill that the school is “doing whatever we can to support” students during their finals.

“They’re paying tuition and fees to learn, and we’re dismayed by deliberate outside disruptions that get in the way of that,” Osako said. “Students want to hear their professors teach, not the piercing sounds of trumpets, drums and slogans being shouted right outside their classroom windows.”

Updated May 29 at 2:48 p.m. EDT.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.