Court orders UC academic workers to temporarily halt strike over war in Gaza

48,000-strong union argues members were mistreated in crackdown on anti-Israel encampments

File - University of California academic workers with the UAW 4811 union stage a protest on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2024. (Screen capture: X/ieUnionActivist, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
File - University of California academic workers with the UAW 4811 union stage a protest on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2024. (Screen capture: X/ieUnionActivist, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Thousands of academic workers at the University of California were ordered by a state judge on Friday to temporarily cease their weekslong strike over the war in Gaza.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Randall J. Sherman issued the emergency restraining order after UC lawyers argued that the ongoing strike would cause irreversible harm as students are nearing finals.

The university system sued United Auto Workers Local 4811 on Tuesday even though both sides have competing unfair practice labor claims pending before the California Public Employment Relations Board, which declined twice to issue an emergency injunction.

The union, which represents 48,000 graduate students who work as teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and other academic employees on the 10-campus UC system, started its strike on May 20 in Santa Cruz. The strike has since expanded to UC campuses in Davis, Los Angeles, Irvine, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

Melissa Matella, associate vice president for labor relations, expressed gratitude for the order, saying in a statement that the ongoing strike would have set back students’ learning and possibly stalled critical research projects. Officials say the strike is not related to employment terms and violates the union’s contract.

But the union says it is protesting the treatment of its members, some of whom were arrested and forcibly ejected by police in demonstrations calling for an end to the war in Gaza.

Rebecca Gross, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and union leader, said Friday that the union was surveying rank-and-file workers on how to proceed.

“The struggle is not over,” she said. “It really hasn’t been confirmed yet … that what we’re doing here is illegal in any way.”

On May 1, police in riot gear ordered the dispersal of more than a thousand people gathered on campus to show support for the Palestinian people, and warned that those who refused to leave would face arrest. The night before, police had waited to intervene as pro-Israel counter-protesters attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment, causing injuries.

File – Police advance on demonstrators who defied orders to leave at an anti-Israel encampment on the UCLA campus, in Los Angeles, California, May 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Anti-Israel protests have roiled campuses across the United States and in Europe as students demand their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts.

Police on Wednesday arrested protesters at California’s Stanford University who had occupied the school president’s office for several hours. Officials said demonstrators caused extensive vandalism inside and outside the building.

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