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UC Santa Cruz Academic Workers Strike in Support of Pro-Palestinian Protesters

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strike signs leaned against a large sign saying "University of California, Santa Cruz"
Academic workers at UC Santa Cruz went on strike Monday morning, May 20. (Courtesy of UAW 4811)

Graduate students and academic workers at UC Santa Cruz walked off the job Monday, the first campus to do so, as part of a larger protest against the public university system, which they say has violated the rights of union members who participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Members of UAW 4811, which represents about 48,000 graduate-student teaching assistants, tutors and researchers on the 10-campus UC system, voted last week to authorize the action. Union leaders said strikes will be called on a rolling basis across the campuses, with UCSC taking the lead.

Last week’s motion in favor of the rolling strikes was passed by 79% of those voting, according to the union leaders, although fewer than half of all members voted.

It remains unclear how long the strike at UCSC will last or which other campuses will follow, but actions could continue until the term ends in late June.

“All of the classes that are taught by graduate workers or post-docs, those will be canceled,” said Rebecca Gross, a UCSC graduate student and UAW 4811 organizer. “We’ll also see grading come to a halt, and we’ll see a lot of lab workers walk off the job, so their data is going to be withheld as well.”

The UC administration, however, maintains the strike is unlawful and a violation of the union’s contract, which prohibits work stoppages, Lori Kletzer, UCSC campus provost and executive vice chancellor, said in a statement.

The UC system last week also filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union, which the California Public Employment Relations Board will review.

The strike comes in response to recent crackdowns on pro-Palestinian protests on several UC campuses, including at UCLA, where police earlier this month violently broke up a campus encampment and arrested more than 200 activists – less than two days after standing by as counter-protesters attacked demonstrators.

And last week, another 47 pro-Palestinian protesters at an encampment at UC Irvine.

Striking workers are demanding that the UC system divest from businesses that support Israel and disclose research funding sources while also granting amnesty to union members who have been arrested in the protests or face disciplinary measures.

“The ball is in UC’s court — and the first step they need to take is dropping all criminal and disciplinary proceedings against our colleagues,” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 4811, said in a statement.

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Kelly O’Mara and The Associated Press.


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