Updated May 3rd, 2024 at 17:00 IST

Union Contemplates Strike Over Treatment of Pro-Palestinian Protesters at UCLA

The union asserts that UCLA failed to safeguard its members who participated in the pro-Palestinian protests when counter-protesters attacked the encampment.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
UCLA | Image:AP
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The University of California system faces the looming possibility of a strike as United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811, representing over 48,000 graduate student teaching assistants, researchers, and other student workers, considers taking action in response to the treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The announcement from UAW Local 4811 follows the arrest of approximately 200 demonstrators at UCLA after they refused to disperse. Rafael Jaime, co-president of the union and a Ph.D. candidate in UCLA's English department, stated the intention to file unfair labor practices charges against UCLA, as per a report from the New York Times. The charges allege discrimination against pro-Palestinian speech and unilateral changes to policies protecting employees' free speech without negotiation.

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What is the union claiming?

The union asserts that UCLA failed to safeguard its members who participated in the pro-Palestinian protests when counter-protesters attacked the encampment established since April 25. In response, officials at the University of California Office of the President criticized the union's actions, stating that engaging in a work stoppage would be unlawful and expressing frustration over what they deemed as exploitation of the situation.

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Here is what you need to know

UAW Local 4811 represents a significant portion of the University of California's workforce, responsible for essential tasks such as grading papers, leading discussion sessions, and conducting research across the university system, which serves nearly 300,000 students. However, these workers often grapple with the high cost of living in California's expensive housing markets.

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This potential strike echoes past labor disputes within the University of California system. In 2022, union members, then divided into two locals, staged a six-week strike, one of the largest by university-based workers in national history, to address issues including wages and working conditions.

The current situation highlights the intersection of labor issues and political activism, with the union's prior declaration of support for Palestinians adding to the complexity of the dispute. It remains to be seen if the union will actually go ahead and organise a strike. 

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Published May 3rd, 2024 at 17:00 IST