Some University of California unionized workers authorize strike over protests

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Graduate students at UC campuses are threatening to walk off their jobs.

Unionized graduate students who work at University of California campuses and graduate student workers at the University of Southern California are threatening Thursday to walk off their jobs in response to escalating tensions surrounding pro-Palestinian protests at schools.

The unionized members who work at UC campuses, including UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC San Diego, voted to authorize leadership to call a strike on Wednesday. Teaching and research assistants who are also graduate students at the universities are members of the union.

Graduate students who work in similar capacities at USC filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor matters involving private-sector employers in response to treatment of protesters on campus.

United Auto Workers Local 4811 represents thousands of UC graduate student workers and reported that 79% of the union members approved the strike authorization.

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.

In a statement released before the vote, officials at the University of California Office of the President said the union’s demands fall outside the scope of negotiation for employment.

“UC believes that the vote currently being conducted by UAW leadership sets a dangerous precedent that would introduce non-labor issues into labor agreements,” the statement said. “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.”

UC graduate student workers have authorized four previous work stoppages, the most recent in November 2022. It was the largest strike in the history of higher education with a reported 48,000 members participating. They walked off the job for six weeks. It ended with the union negotiating a new contract with a more than 50% raise to workers’ base pay.

This goal of the strike authorized Wednesday is not to raise wages, but to protect workers’ rights. In addition to seeking amnesty and protection, the union is asking universities to disclose all its known investments in weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and companies profiting from the Israel-Hamas wars.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.