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Bruins voice support for UAW Local 4811 strike, concern over UCLA admin’s response

Members of United Auto Workers Local 4811 picket in Dickson Plaza. UCLA members of the union began striking Tuesday. (Zoraiz Irshad/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Vivian Stein

May 30, 2024 9:52 p.m.

Students expressed support for the United Auto Workers Local 4811 strike at UCLA but said there has been a lack of communication surrounding the strike’s effects on classes.

UAW Local 4811 called its UCLA members to join its ongoing strike, which started May 28. The union – which represents academic student employees, graduate students, and academic and postdoctoral researchers – voted to authorize a strike May 15 after filing an unfair labor charge against the UC in response to the use of police force on union members in dismantling the Palestine solidarity encampment on May 2.

The strike has led to class cancellations, transitions from in-person to online classes and shifts in testing procedures.

[Related: United Auto Workers Local 4811 begins UCLA strike at Dickson Plaza]

The union first called upon graduate student employees at UC Santa Cruz to strike starting May 20. On May 23, the union called upon UCLA and UC Davis union members to join the strike starting Tuesday.

Timothy Chien, a first-year cognitive science student, said he supported the union’s reasoning for the strike, but he has not received much communication from either his striking teaching assistants who are on strike or those who are not.

“I agree with the strike in general,” he said. “I just wish that there was a little more communication to the students directly as to what’s going on. I was not aware if my midterm was happening this morning.”

Chien added that while the strike will put pressure on the University to act in some way, he is unsure what the result will be. It could range from litigation to prosecution, he said.

Laylah, a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student who did not provide her last name, said she believes the University’s limitations on free speech and use of police force on union members warrant the union’s choice to strike.

“It’s very disheartening to see your university – instead of vouching for you, vouching for their students – trying to push their issues under the rug to save face,” she said.

Some students reported that their discussion sections – which are typically led by TAs – were canceled this week because of the strike. Ariel Lucas, a first-year psychobiology student, said two of her TAs are striking and her discussion sections were canceled.

Lucas added that although she has experienced little communication from her instructors, she believes this lack of communication is part of the strike in itself. Administrators should offer additional mental health or wellness resources to support students during the strike period, she added.

Lucas also said she believes the strike is justified because of UCLA’s response to pro-Palestine protests.

“I think they’re (UAW Local 4811) more concerned with protecting students, and they thought that we weren’t protected during the Palestine protests,” Lucas said.

Strike demands include amnesty for union members who were arrested or faced discipline from the UC for participating in pro-Palestine protests on UC campuses, as well as the university negotiating with union members to enact policy changes in regard to workers’ political speech expression, according to the UAW Local 4811 website.

Monse Juarez, a third-year English and Spanish student, said she believes there should be space made for people who are underrepresented and support fairer policies. The use of police force is unnecessary for a protest, she added.

Juarez added that she has received little information from administrators about how the strike will affect students and was unsure if she would have class later in the day.

To support students during the strike, administrators could be more lenient when giving exams and assignments, Laylah said. Since many students have been mentally and physically affected by recent protests, the UCLA administration could be more empathetic, especially as some students take midterms this week, she added.

“It’s very warranted for the TAs and students and honestly anyone who wants to be involved in the strike to do so,” she said. “If the university that you’re paying thousands of dollars isn’t advocating for you, then you have to advocate for yourself.”

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