Strike Over Campus Protests Expands to U.C. Davis and U.C.L.A.


A union for academic workers in the University of California system announced on Thursday that an ongoing strike challenging the system’s handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations would extend to two more campuses, U.C.L.A. and U.C. Davis, starting next Tuesday.

The announcement came on the same day that U.C.L.A.’s chancellor, Gene D. Block, testified before Congress about his handling of a violent attack on an encampment there last month by counterprotesters.

The walkout first started this week at U.C. Santa Cruz, involving about 2,000 teaching assistants, tutors and researchers, and it has threatened to complicate coursework and spring finals for the 20,000 students enrolled there. The Santa Cruz, Davis and Los Angeles campuses all end their spring quarters in mid-June.

The union, U.A.W. 4811, part of the United Auto Workers, represents about 48,000 graduate students and other academic workers across the U.C. system, which encompasses 10 campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Among other grievances, the workers have charged that the university’s response to recent campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war has created an unsafe work environment, and has amounted to an unlawful and unilateral change in its policies on free speech.

The union has claimed that disciplinary proceedings against students and employees involved in the protests have barred some from campus and others from university housing. Rafael Jaime, the U.A.W. president, said the strike had been authorized through June 30.

University of California officials have said that the strike is an unlawful attempt to pressure the system to concede to a political agenda, and officials have filed for an injunction with the state Public Employment Relations Board to immediately end the walkout.

The board stopped short of an injunction, but issued a complaint late Thursday accusing the union of failing to provide adequate notice of its work stoppage, and failing to meet and confer with the university in good faith. The board called the two sides to an informal hearing on Friday morning.

On Capitol Hill, Dr. Block acknowledged to the House committee that he had made mistakes in dealing with the encampment at U.C.L.A. last month, and added that the university had created a new security office reporting to the chancellor. The police response to the counterprotester attack late last month is now under investigation, and the campus police chief was removed from his post this week.

More than 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested after the April 30 attack. When grilled by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, on whether any of the counterprotesters had been apprehended, Dr. Block said on Thursday that the Los Angeles Police Department was working to identify them.

Just as the U.C.L.A. chancellor was testifying, a small group of pro-Palestinian protesters formed a new encampment, barricading an area on campus known as the Kerckhoff Patio with umbrellas, tables and slabs of wood. Some protesters who were standing outside of the encampment carried signs that said “U.A.W. rank and file workers for Palestine.” By Thursday afternoon, they appeared to have abandoned the encampment.

Grace Whitaker contributed reporting.



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