Court orders end to pro-Palestinian strike at California universities

Thousands of University of California academic staff who went on strike across six campuses to protest the administration's response to pro-Palestinian protests returned to work on Monday under court orders, but their union vowed further protests.

An Orange County Superior Court judge late Friday granted a temporary restraining order requested by the university, saying the strike was not based on labor law and violated the no-strike clause in the union's collective bargaining agreement.

University officials originally petitioned the California Public Employment Relations Board, but the board twice denied their requests for a temporary restraining order.

Unionized academic researchers, research assistants and postdoctoral fellows walked out of their jobs because they called the university's labor practices unfair in dealing with the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks.

As the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, the LAPD surrounds students protesting in support of the Palestinians at an encampment in the University of Southern California's Alumni Park on April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. (Source: REUTERS)

The stoppage was organized by the United Auto Workers Local 4811 union, which represents about 48,000 non-tenured academic employees at ten UC locations and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The protest strike began on May 20 on the UC Santa Cruz campus and expanded over the next two weeks to UCLA, UC Davis near Sacramento, and the campuses in San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Irvine. There are approximately 31,500 UAW members on these six campuses. The UC system has a total of ten campuses.

A continuation of the strike “would have meant an irreversible setback to students' academic achievement and could have resulted in a halt to important research projects in the final quarter,” Melissa Matella, UC's assistant vice president for labor relations, said in a statement welcoming the injunction.

Judge Randall Sherman has scheduled a hearing for June 27 to hear arguments for an extension of the injunction. The union's right to strike expires on June 30.

UAW 4811 union leaders denounced the ruling, saying the judge had defied the authority of the Employment Relations Board by intervening in a labor matter that was outside the court's jurisdiction.

Still, the union said its members were complying with the court order. The UAW said it would focus its efforts on an upcoming grievance case against the university.

Among other things, the union is calling for amnesty for doctoral students and other academic staff who have been arrested or who face disciplinary action for their role in the campus protests against the Israeli military offensive in the besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The strike was the first union-backed protest in solidarity with the growing pro-Palestinian student movement that has taken place on dozens of U.S. campuses in recent months.

The UAW said it plans further protests on Tuesday at UC Davis and on Wednesday at UCLA.

Numerous arrests

Union leaders said a major trigger for the strike was the arrest of 210 people, including graduate students employed on campus, at the site of a Palestinian solidarity protest camp that was broken up by police at UCLA on May 2.

Masked attackers armed with sticks and clubs had attacked the camp and its residents the night before, sparking a bloody clash that lasted at least three hours before police restored order.

Anna Harden

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