Academic Workers Strike Amid Pro-Palestinian Protest Controversy at UCLA

Discord from a recent mob attack on pro-Palestinian activists at UCLA reignited as academic workers staged a strike over the university’s handling of the violence. Unionized researchers and teaching assistants at UCLA, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz demanded amnesty for arrested protestors, alleging unfair labor practices.

Reuters | Updated: 29-05-2024 07:07 IST | Created: 29-05-2024 07:07 IST
Academic Workers Strike Amid Pro-Palestinian Protest Controversy at UCLA
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Discord from last month's mob attack on pro-Palestinian student activists encamped at the University of California, Los Angeles, flared again on Tuesday as academic workers staged a strike on campus protesting UCLA's response to the violence. 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.

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 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.

The state Public Employee Relations Board ordered the University of California and the strikers to take part in mediated talks. A representative for the strikers said the parties met once over the weekend. 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 were withholding their work as of Monday. Several hundred attended a march and midday rally on the UCLA campus on Tuesday. The expanding work stoppage marks the first union-backed protest in solidarity with the recent wave of student-led demonstrations on dozens of U.S. campuses against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Union leaders said a major impetus for the strike was the arrest of 210 people, including campus-employed grad students, 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, 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.

The university has since reassigned the chief of the campus police department and opened an investigation into law enforcement's reaction to the violence. Last week, three weeks after the melee, campus police announced their first, and so far only, arrest of someone accused of taking part in the attack - a man they say was seen in video footage beating victims with a wooden pole.

Separately on Tuesday in Detroit, Wayne State University suspended in-person classes and directed staff to work remotely to avoid any disruptions that might be posed by a pro-Palestinian encampment there. U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat of Palestinian descent, joined those protests on Monday and Tuesday.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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