UAW Local 4811 Considers Strike Vote Over UCLA Protest Crackdown

UCLA police dismantled a pro-Palestinian protest encampment, resulting in violent clashes and arrests, including UAW 4811 members. In response, the union is set to hold a strike authorization vote, potentially affecting 50,000 academic workers across 10 California universities.

author-image
Mahnoor Jehangir
New Update
UAW Local 4811 Considers Strike Vote Over UCLA Protest Crackdown

UAW Local 4811 Considers Strike Vote Over UCLA Protest Crackdown

The United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811, representing nearly 50,000 academic researchers and postdocs across 10 public universities and one laboratory in California, is set to hold a strike authorization vote as early as Monday in response to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) administration's handling of a pro-Palestinian protest encampment on campus. The move comes after police in riot gear dismantled the encampment in the early hours of May 2, 2024, resulting in violent clashes and arrests, including those of UAW 4811 members.

Why this matters: The potential strike by nearly 50,000 academic workers in California could have far-reaching implications for higher education and the ongoing debate over free speech and political activism on university campuses, influencing the balance of power between administrators and students. This incident also highlights the growing tensions on college campuses nationwide over the Israel-Palestine conflict, which may lead to similar protests and crackdowns in the future.

The pro-Palestinian encampment had been set up for days, blocking a main stairway into the Royce Quad. Protesters used barricades, tents, and gazebos to fortify their position. The university declared the encampment unlawful at 6 p.m. the previous day, and police moved in at 3 a.m. on May 2, using flashbangs to subdue the protest. Several hundred California Highway Patrol officers arrived on campus in buses around 5:30 a.m., and clashes between police and protesters broke out shortly after.

The union's executive board has condemned the university's use of violent force and failure to protect pro-Palestinian students and employees from counter-protesters. In an email to union members, the board stated, "Management has employed police violence or allowed violence to be used against students, faculty and academic workers exercising their right to free speech... The use and sanction of violent force to curtail peaceful protest is an attack on free speech and the right to demand change, and the university must sit down with students, unions and campus organizations to negotiate, rather than escalate."

Rafael Jaime, UAW 4811 co-president, took to social media to express his outrage, saying, "Dozens of my coworkers and I were physically attacked and maced by outside agitators while the university stood idly by. This escalation will not stand-our union will take swift and decisive action." The union also criticized the university's decision to tear down the encampment using flash bang grenades and rubber bullets, tweeting, "[The university] had the option to deescalate and negotiate with the protestors, but it chose instead to tear down the Palestine Solidarity Encampment using flash bang grenades and rubber bullets."

In response to the unrest, UCLA announced that classes would be remote learning only for the next two days because of the "EMERGENCY ON CAMPUS" and advised students to avoid the Dickson Court Royce Quad area. LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia urged UCLA to do more to protect students, saying, "We urge ULCA City leaders to protect students, not do more harm."

The strike authorization vote, if approved, would give the union the power to call a strike if the university "curtails the right to participate in protected, concerted activity; discriminates against union members or political viewpoints; and creates or allows threats to members' health and safety, among others." UAW President Shawn Fain emphasized the union's stance, stating, "The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike, or speak out against injustice."

The potential strike action by UAW 4811 comes less than two years after the historic 2022 strike by academic workers, which was the largest in the history of American higher education. That strike delayed final exams and brought the majority of research to a halt. As tensions continue to escalate on college campuses nationwide over the Israel-Palestine conflict, the impending possibility of a strike by nearly 50,000 academic workers in California could have far-reaching implications for higher education and the ongoing debate over free speech and political activism on university campuses.

Key Takeaways

  • UAW Local 4811 to hold strike authorization vote over UCLA's handling of pro-Palestinian protest.
  • Police in riot gear dismantled the encampment, resulting in violent clashes and arrests.
  • Union condemns university's use of violent force and failure to protect pro-Palestinian students.
  • Potential strike by 50,000 academic workers could impact higher education and free speech debates.
  • Strike authorization vote could give union power to call a strike if university curtails union rights.