U.C. Santa Cruz Workers to Strike Over Protest Crackdowns

U.C. Santa Cruz Workers to Strike Over Protest Crackdowns

Academic workers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will go on strike starting on Monday to protest the university system’s handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, the workers’ union announced on Friday.

The union, U.A.W. 4811, which is part of the United Auto Workers, represents about 48,000 graduate students and other academic workers at 10 University of California system campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

According to the union, about 2,000 members work at Santa Cruz as teaching assistants, tutors and researchers. The walkout would not last beyond June 30, said Rafael Jaime, the U.A.W. 4811 president. But it could still seriously complicate coursework for the spring quarter, which ends on June 13. Nearly 20,000 students were enrolled at the school as of last fall.

“U.A.W. academic workers are standing up to go on strike in response to the university’s crackdown on our fundamental rights to free speech and protest on campus,” Mr. Jaime said on Friday. “The university has committed a number of unfair labor practices against workers in our union.”

The announcement comes two days after University of California academic workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize the union to call for a strike. The union said it had called the vote because the university system had unilaterally and unlawfully changed policies regarding free speech, discriminated against pro-Palestinian speech and created an unsafe work environment by allowing attacks on protesters, among other grievances.

About two weeks ago, dozens of counterprotesters attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles, for several hours without police intervention. Officers in riot gear tore down the encampment the next day and arrested more than 200 people.

After the strike authorization vote, a spokeswoman for the University of California president’s office said that a strike would set “a dangerous precedent that would introduce nonlabor issues into labor agreements.” On Friday, the university filed an unfair labor practice charge, asking the state’s labor authorities to order the union not to strike.

“We are forced to take decisive action to ensure we can continue to fulfill our fundamental missions of teaching, research and public service,” Melissa Matella, associate vice president for systemwide labor relations at the University of California, said in a statement.

There are still several active encampments at University of California campuses, including at Santa Cruz.

On Thursday, a dozen protesters were arrested at U.C. Berkeley after the police moved in to clear an encampment that had been erected after a larger camp was dismantled earlier this week. On Wednesday, police officers cleared an encampment at U.C. Irvine, in Orange County, and 47 people were arrested.

The strike authorization vote enabled what is known as a “stand up” strike, which allows the union’s executive board to focus strikes on certain campuses or among certain workers, instead of calling on all members to strike at once.

Mr. Jaime said that members at other U.C. campuses might strike, too, if the university system failed to address their grievances, many of which were laid out in the union’s own unfair labor practice charge that it filed with the California Public Employment Relations Board.

University of California officials pointed to the union’s bargaining contract, which says that “there shall be no strikes” that “interfere directly or indirectly with university operations.” But the union said the clause did not apply in this case, because its strike was about unfair labor practices, which involve the state and are outside of the scope of traditional bargaining issues like wages and benefits.

Jonathan Wolfe contributed reporting.

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