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Police Respond to New UCLA Protest Camp as Academic Workers Expand Strike

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Two people affix a large brown sign with red text reading 'Do UCLA next' to a school sign outdoors near a busy street.
UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811 set up a sign in front of the university's campus on May 20. Academic workers at UCSC walked off the job to strike in protest of the UC system’s handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Updated 2:55 p.m. Thursday

Leaders of the union representing University of California academic workers on Thursday called on members at UCLA and UC Davis to walk off the job next week — the second round of campuses to join a rolling strike protesting the university system’s handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The call came Thursday morning as protesters built a second encampment at UCLA.

Wooden barricades were erected on the campus’ Kerckhoff Patio, a communal student space that was redeveloped in 2021. Administrators issued an order to leave the area, with a threat of arrest, sanctions and disciplinary measures should they remain, the university confirmed.

By afternoon, hundreds of people joined a protest outside Kerckhoff Patio and were met by a line of police, according to multiple reports on the scene. Banners and Palestinian flags were draped from the top of a campus building.


Police wielding batons can be seen pushing back protesters, some of whom are carrying UAW signs, in videos posted to social media by independent journalist Jeremy Lindenfeld, who also documented pro-Palestinian protesters marching through UCLA’s Dodd Hall shortly after.

In a statement, UCLA Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck and Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Safety Rick Braziel said the demonstrators were told they would face arrest and possible disciplinary action if they didn’t disperse.

“There is reasonable cause to find that demonstrators’ activities — including erecting barricades, establishing fortifications and blocking access to parts of the campus and buildings — are disrupting campus operations,” the administrators wrote.

Meanwhile, union leaders at UAW 4811, which represents about 48,000 academic workers across the UC system, said the expansion of the strike to UCLA and UC Davis reflects the administration failing to address their concerns.

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“Rather than put their energies into resolution, UC is attempting to halt the strike through legal procedures,” UAW 4811 President Rafael Jaime said in a statement.

University officials have called the strike illegal, filing an unfair labor practice suit against the union in response.

“UAW’s decision to strike over nonlabor issues violates the no-strike clause of their contracts with UC and sets a dangerous and far-reaching precedent,” Melissa Matella, associate vice president of systemwide labor relations, said in a statement last week.

About 1,500 graduate teaching assistants, researchers and other academic workers at UC Santa Cruz walked off the job on Monday, the first campus to go on strike after an authorization vote by union members last week. With a number of entrances blocked by picketing on Tuesday and Wednesday, UCSC temporarily transitioned to all virtual classes.

The union argues that the university has engaged in unfair labor practices, created unsafe working conditions and violated members’ rights in its response to pro-Palestinian protests on several campuses. That includes at UCLA, where police earlier this month took hours to intervene when counter-demonstrators attacked pro-Palestinian protesters at the campus’ original encampment but then proceeded to violently break up the same encampment and arrest more than 200 activists the next night. There were also crackdowns at UC Irvine, where 47 protesters were arrested last week, and UC San Diego, where 64 people were arrested in early May.

Emily Weintraut, the UAW 4811 academic student employee unit chair at UC Davis, said she was disappointed that the university administration didn’t resolve the strike amicably. The group represents 5,700 workers at UC Davis.

“I’d say that we only called the strike because there were such severe health and safety violations, such severe, unfair labor practices,” she said. “And it’s disappointing that the university, rather than when we asked multiple times to talk with us and de-escalate the situations, decided to file the injunction.”

The strike authorization passed with 79% of the vote, according to the union — but voter turnout was low — only 19,780 of UAW 4811’s approximately 48,000 members cast ballots. The decision to utilize what are known as rolling strikes, where individual campuses are called on to strike at different times, was made to have a greater impact and “maximize chaos,” union leaders said at the time.

It’s not yet known how long the strike will last or if it will extend to other campuses, but it could go until the end of June. Most campuses finish classes in the next few weeks.

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