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Bruins in Paris

UAW members rally in Court of Sciences to support strike authorization vote

Postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers represented by United Auto Workers Local 4811 march through the Court of Sciences with a banner representing their former union, UAW Local 5810. UAW Local 4811 will vote to authorize a strike in response to UCLA’s decisions surrounding the Palestine solidarity encampment. (Zoraiz Irshad/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Catherine Hamilton

May 9, 2024 4:42 p.m.

This post was updated May 9 at 11:28 p.m. 

This post was updated May 9 at 10:43 p.m.

Around 100 members of the United Auto Workers Local 4811 Union gathered in the Court of Sciences on Thursday to discuss an upcoming strike authorization vote in response to UCLA’s recent decisions regarding the now-dispersed Palestine solidarity encampment. 

The union which represents UC academic student employees, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars announced Monday that it will vote May 13 to 15 to authorize a strike. The decision follows the violent attack by counter-protesters and aggressors on the encampment April 30 and the subsequent police-led sweep of Dickson Plaza, where hundreds of protesters were arrested. Multiple union members gave speeches amid chants of “Shame!” on the administration, which were met with cheers.

Annie, a graduate worker who did not give her last name, said in a speech during the rally that the union is filing charges of unfair labor practices against the university for repression of free speech, which include the dispersal of the encampment. 

Desmond Fonseca, a doctoral candidate in the history department, said the rally replaced the union’s monthly meeting as a way to spread awareness about the upcoming vote and show its support for pro-Palestine protesters. 

“We are ready to go on strike until the demands of this movement are met,” Fonseca said. “People who make up this university … were protesting mass violence, and they are themselves now subject to mass violence.”

He added that while the union is prepared to strike, the UCLA administration’s response will dictate what the union does moving forward.

An organizer with the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA – which helped lead the encampment – who did not provide their name said in their speech that instead of meeting the demands of divestment, the university has turned into a “police state” because of the increased presence of police and security officers on campus. 

“At UCLA, our campus is under police occupation,” they said. “Our administration has not moved on divestment, and genocide continues in Gaza.”

Other unions were present at the rally to show solidarity, including members of University Professional & Technical Employees CWA Local 9119 and the Committee of Interns and Residents, a local of Service Employees International Union. 

Max Belasco, a member of UPTE and manager of Bruin Learn and Clinical IT at UCLA School of Law, said in a speech that his union would stand behind UAW members should they choose to strike.

“If you strike, UPTE research associates will not touch your (lab) benches,” Belasco said during the rally. “UPTE education technology specialists will not touch your Bruin Learn sites.” 

A worker at a UCLA Health hospital who did not give their name said in a speech that the money UC workers bring into the University is being used to invest in weapons manufacturing rather than to provide university employees with a fair wage. 

“That money is not being spent on us,” they said. “Money (is being spent) on bombs and weapons that are being dropped on an innocent civilian population.”

Annie said in her speech that students have the right to stand up for themselves and express their views. She added that she believes the administration should not change operations – such as increasing the police presence on campus – without the approval of the campus community.

At the end of the rally, those in attendance signed a form committing themselves to vote “yes” on the strike authorization and to spread the word to their coworkers. Lena Schorkopf, an undergraduate tutor at the UCLA Writing Center, said she will vote in favor of the strike to stand with her peers leading the Palestine solidarity movement.  

Around 3 p.m., the group marched to Murphy Hall to deliver its demands to the UCLA administration. They chanted slogans such as, “When student rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “We want justice, you say how? End the siege on Gaza now!” 

Upon their arrival, around 20 CSC and APEX campus security officers blocked the entrance to Murphy Hall, hours after they had barred faculty members from presenting demands to Chancellor Gene Block. 

“The university is scared of our power and voice. The university is scared of our commitment to see a free Palestine,” said one speaker who did not give their name during the rally. “They can recognize our power and the effect we are having on our campus. … They know they are on the wrong side of history.”

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Catherine Hamilton
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
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