Judge orders end to strike by academic staff at the University of California

A protester arrested at a pro-Palestinian camp at UCLA last week. REUTERS/Mike Blake

An Orange County Superior Court judge on Friday ordered an end to a strike by University of California faculty members who had picketed several college campuses, including UC San Diego, to protest the system's response to pro-Palestinian protests.

Hoping to end the strikes, the university system filed suit earlier this week after twice unsuccessfully attempting to obtain an injunction against the union from the state Public Employment Relations Board.

“We are very grateful for the pause in this strike so our students could complete their degrees,” Melissa Matella, UC's assistant vice president for systemwide labor relations, said in a statement following Judge Randall Sherman's ruling. “The strike would have caused irreversible setbacks in students' academic performance and potentially halted important research projects in the final quarter.”

“We have stated from the beginning that this strike is illegal and violates the no-strike clauses in our contracts,” Matella said. “We respect the commitment and progressive action on issues important to our community and our community's right to engage in lawful free speech activities – activities that continue to occur throughout the system. However, the UAW strike has nothing to do with terms and conditions of employment, violates the parties' agreements and contradicts established labor principles.”

There was no immediate response from the United Auto Workers Local 4811 union.

Union members first began their protest at UC Santa Cruz and expanded it to UCLA and UC Davis last week. On Monday, workers at UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara began picketing, and on Wednesday UC Irvine joined the strike.

“Over the past month, UC has used and tolerated violence against workers and students peacefully protesting on campus for peace and freedom in Palestine,” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW Local 4811, said in a statement last week.

“Instead of putting their energy into a solution, UC is trying to end the strike through legal action. They have not been successful so far, and this strike will continue. We are united in our demand that UC address these serious ULPs, starting with dropping all criminal and conduct charges brought against our members for speaking out against injustice.”

The UAW Local 4811 union is demanding that UC schools grant amnesty to all academic staff and students arrested or disciplined for protesting on campus. The union also wants students to be guaranteed free speech and political expression on campus and demands that researchers be able to be excluded from funding sources linked to the Israel Defense Forces.

The UC system has strongly denied the union's allegations and has filed unfair labor practices lawsuits of its own. It says the union's employment contract contains a no-strike clause and that the union's demands do not fall within the scope of union labor rights issues. The university has also rejected calls for amnesty.