University of California graduate students call strike over arrests of protesters

Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811, which is part of the United Auto Workers, and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus on May 20, 2024 in Santa Cruz, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)
Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811, which is part of the United Auto Workers, and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus on May 20, 2024 in Santa Cruz, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

Graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz have walked off their jobs called a strike, the first campus to do so as part of a systemwide protest against a public university they say has violated the speech rights of pro-Palestinian advocates.

United Auto Workers Local 4811 represents 48,000 graduate students who work as teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and other academic employees on the 10-campus UC system. Organizers say the campuses will not strike all at once, opting instead for rolling strikes, to protest the arrests and forcible ejection by police of union members who participated in demonstrations calling for an end to the war in Gaza.

Rebecca Gross, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student in literature and union leader, says at least 1,500 people were on strike Monday and had no plans to return to work until the union reaches a deal with the university. Students and researchers are not teaching, grading or working in their labs, and they are withholding data, she says.

“Police were unleashed and given the go-ahead to arrest protesters,” at the Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine campuses, she says.

University officials say the strike is unlawful and in violation of the union’s contract, which prohibits work stoppages. Both sides have filed unfair labor practice complaints with the California Public Employment Relations Board.

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