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Academic Workers' Strike Will Roll On as UC's Request for Court Order Is Denied

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UC Santa Cruz academic workers who are union members of UAW 4811 and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the campus on May 20, 2024. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After the state’s labor board rejected a request from the University of California system for a court order to halt its academic workers’ strike, the walkout is set to continue as both sides spar over its legality.

United Auto Workers Local 4811, which represents 48,000 graduate teaching assistants, researchers and others at 10 UC campuses, started its rolling strike on Monday at UC Santa Cruz. Academic workers at UCLA and UC Davis are expected to walk off the job on Tuesday, ratcheting up the labor action over university leaders’ response to pro-Palestinian protests across the UC system.

UC officials have said the walkouts violate a no-strike clause in UAW 4811’s contract and sought an injunction to force their immediate end, citing “irreparable harm” to the university and its students if the strike continues.

In its ruling late Thursday, the California Public Employment Relations Board did not declare the strike unlawful and cited a lack of legal basis for an injunction, but it left the UC system’s complaint open in case other evidence or facts emerged to support such an order.


The university’s claims also triggered a complaint from PERB, which was issued based on the assumption that the UC’s allegations are true but now must be backed up by evidence.

“We are pleased that PERB has issued a complaint against UAW for engaging in a strike that is contrary to the no-strike clauses in their collective bargaining agreements and without providing adequate notice to the university,” the office of UC President Michael Drake wrote in a statement.

Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 4811, pushed back on the UC’s interpretation of the ruling.

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“That’s misleading — PERB has only made one definitive finding, and that was to reject UC’s request for an injunction,” Jaime said in a statement. “If UC is serious about wanting a quick and just resolution of the strike, they should drop all criminal and disciplinary charges against all our colleagues and address the unfair labor practices they committed, which PERB is currently processing.”

UAW 4811 alleges the UC system engaged in “egregious unfair labor practices,” including changing workplace speech policies, summoning police officers to eject and arrest peaceful protesters at UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Irvine, and disciplining and suspending employees engaged in peaceful protest.

The complaint from PERB, which oversees labor relations for California’s public employees, stems from the UC system’s claims that the no-strike clause was violated. It will stand until an evidentiary hearing determines whether the UC was correct and UAW 4811 violated state law. The process could take 90 to 120 days, PERB General Counsel J. Felix De La Torre said.

“If the (administrative law judge) finds the strike was unlawful, the judge will order the appropriate remedies. It is difficult to predict what those will be, as the ALJ has broad discretion,” De La Torre told KQED.

University of California and UAW representatives began mediation on Friday.

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