UCLA academic workers strike over university’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests

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Discord from last month’s violent mob attack on pro-Palestinian students and activists encamped at the University of California, Los Angeles in the United States, flared again on Tuesday as academic workers staged a protest strike on campus protesting UCLA’s response to the incident.

Unionized academic researchers, graduate teaching assistants and post-doctoral scholars at UCLA walked off the job over what they regard as unfair labor practices in the university’s handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks, organizers said.

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They were joined by fellow academic workers at two other University of California campuses, UC Davis near Sacramento, and UC Santa Cruz, where the protest strike began on May 20.

The strike was organized by the United Auto Workers union Local 4811, which represents some 48,000 non-tenured academic employees total across 10 University of California campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The UAW local includes about 6,400 academic workers at UCLA, 5,700 at Davis and about 2,000 at Santa Cruz. A union representative said “thousands” had joined the strike as of Monday by withholding their work, though fewer than 200 were seen attending a noon-time rally on the UCLA campus.

The expanding work stoppage marks the first union-backed protest in solidarity with the recent wave of student-led demonstrations on dozens of US campuses against Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Union leaders said a major impetus for the strike was the treatment of 210 people arrested at the scene of a Palestinian solidarity protest camp torn down by police at UCLA on May 2.

About 24 hours earlier, on the night of April 30-May 1, a group of masked assailants armed with sticks and clubs attacked the encampment and its occupants, sparking a bloody clash that went on for at least three hours before police moved in to quell the disturbance.

The university has since reassigned the chief of the campus police department and opened an investigation into law enforcement’s reaction to the violence.

The strikers are demanding amnesty for grad students and other academic workers who were arrested or face discipline for their involvement in the protests, which union leaders say were peaceful except when counter-demonstrators and other instigators were allowed to provoke unrest.

Last week, three weeks after the melee, campus police announced their first, and so far only, arrest of someone accused of instigating the attack - a man they say was seen in video footage beating victims with a wooden pole.

The University of California filed its own unfair labor practices complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Board, but the panel refused to order a halt to the union’s protest strike.

Instead, the board ordered the two sides to take part in mediated talks aimed at settling the dispute. A union representative said the parties met once over the weekend.

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UCLA police make first arrest in mob attack on pro-Palestinian protest encampment

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