Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Academic workers at UCSB and five other UC campuses returned to work on Monday, June 10, in compliance with a court-ordered mandate to pause their strike.

The Orange County Superior Court ruled last Friday to halt all strikes hosted by the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) 4811 after a lawsuit was filed against the union by the UC system. The lawsuit came after the UC twice failed to end the strike, which it has described as “illegal,” through the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the agency with the jurisdiction to act on unfair labor practices for state employees.

“We are extremely grateful for a pause in this strike so our students can complete their academic studies,” said Melissa Matella, associate vice president for Systemwide Labor Relations, in a statement from UC last Friday. 

The UAW 4811, a union representing teaching assistants and student researchers throughout all UC institutions, has been striking over what it describes as the UC system’s unfair labor practices related to crackdowns on pro-Palestinian protests at multiple campuses across the state. 

“UAW’s strike is unrelated to employment terms, violates the parties’ agreements, and runs contrary to established labor principles,” Matella said. 

In a statement from the UAW 4811 Monday morning, President Rafael Jaime announced the union would comply with the court order to pause the strike, adding that the union had broken off mediation with UC and was shifting its focus to prepare for the upcoming trial regarding PERB’s complaint filed against the UC system earlier this month.  

“UC allowed violence against pro-Palestinian students and workers,” said Jaime. “They violated workers’ fundamental right to free speech and protest. They expelled workers from their homes. We will continue making our case, in the courts and on the street, until we secure justice for ourselves and our movement.”

Compared to pro-Palestinian protests and UC’s crackdowns at other campuses, things at UCSB have been “pretty calm,” said Madeline Vailhe, chair of UCSB’s chapter of the UAW. Aside from some security guard presence, she said, there has been no police involvement in response to demonstrations on campus, which include a pro-Palestinian encampment that has occupied the lawn outside Davidson Library for more than a month. 

“As much as our campus has been calm, we stand in solidarity with other [UC] campuses,” Vailhe said. 

On Monday, however, a group of pro-Palestininan protesters took over UCSB’s Girvetz Hall, barricading external entryways, preventing access to classrooms, and restricting scheduled final exams from occurring. UCSB has so far not involved police in the matter, choosing to interact privately with the protesters.

Following the first union strike rally at the UCSB campus last Monday, June 3, many final exams and papers — typically graded by teaching assistants — had to be altered or suspended due to the quickly approaching end of the spring quarter. According to Vailhe, following the weeklong strike at UCSB, most TAs and academic workers reached out to professors after returning to work in order to catch up on any responsibilities in the classroom.  

With UCSB currently in the middle of finals week, final grades are still to be decided, and commencement will follow throughout the week. But the union is anything but finished, Vailhe said, with other actions needed from the group in the meantime.  

“The workers on our campus have a lot more energy to fight this,” Vailhe said.

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