UCLA Rank & File Caucus Statement – 21 May 2024, UCLA is Ready to Strike!

Original online here.

UCLA Rank & File Caucus Statement – 21 May 2024
UCLA is Ready to Strike!

UCLA IS READY TO STAND UP NOW! It has now been six days since our members overwhelmingly affirmed our desire to strike in the strike authorization vote (SAV). The reports by student workers from across our campus in last week’s Department Congress confirmed that our members want to strike immediately. Militarized police forces still occupy campus, threatening further violence and repression against student protests; Chancellor Block has expanded his police powers with the creation of the new Office of Campus Safety; and Zionist forces are waging a vicious invasion of Rafah as we speak. We can only confront these issues by striking together, NOW!

UCLA has never been more militant and organized than it is now. The student protests led by the UC Divest Coalition and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have led the way, inspiring our membership to stand with our fellow students and workers and to launch an unprecedented strike. So why is our union leadership holding us back? Two weeks have already passed since the violent attacks on UCLA’s encampment, and only five weeks remain before the term ends on June 30. Every week we wait undermines our power and the confidence of our members across the state, who are looking to us to lead. Every week we wait is another week that students and workers could again be brutalized on our campus.

UAW 4811 leadership says we need more time to increase strike readiness in certain departments, pointing to STEM departments in South Campus. But we cannot allow the direction of the strike to be determined by the most hesitant and conservative sections of the union. At least part of the reason for the unreadiness of these departments is a failure by union leadership to provide a clear strike strategy and sufficient reassurances that striking workers will be protected from recrimination. The best way to draw in more hesitant members is to lead the way with powerful strike actions. Once our fellow members see us walking the picket lines and successfully shutting down the university, their and our confidence will grow.

Our leadership insists on absolute secrecy about the timeline and locations of the strikes, in order, they say, to “maximize chaos,” but at present they are only causing chaos and confusion among our own ranks. Rank and file members currently have NO IDEA when or if we will be called to strike. Yet our union bylaws affirm that the membership is the highest authority in our union. We demand transparency and membership oversight. We are holding open, democratic PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLIES in which members on our campus can plan the strike together. In the first two of these assemblies, we have collectively determined that UCLA is prepared to strike NOW for Divestment, Disclosure, Amnesty, and COPS OFF CAMPUS.

The Stand Up strike strategy is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what will make our strike powerful. The basic idea is that we should gradually ramp up pressure by calling campuses out one at a time: a “carrot and stick” approach wherein we “reward” some campuses for “good behavior” when they negotiate with encampments, and “punish” others when they do not. The campuses to be called on strike are reduced to bargaining chips in the hands of our negotiating team. Framing the strike in these terms means playing the UC’s game. The real power of our strike lies in our ability to bring the university to a grinding stop—only by completely disrupting the university’s operations can we win. We are not dealing with individual chancellors or campus administrations that can be played off of each other, but a unified system governed by the UC Board of Regents, which in turn is tied to the Democratic Party and the state government. Calling out campuses individually isolates our striking members and blunts the power of our strike. That is why we need to heed the call of SJP chapters across the state to take united action and CALL OUT EVERY CAMPUS IMMEDIATELY.

We cannot wait on our union leadership to go ahead with their plans for a delayed and limited strike. Even after they call our campus out, they will try to prevent us from taking militant actions, out of fear that the university will declare the strike illegal. We should not be intimidated by these empty threats. In order to win, we need to launch disruptive actions that will SHUT CAMPUS DOWN.

Union leadership is actively demobilizing workers by not calling all campuses up immediately and fear mongering about the legal risks of not following their strategy. Regardless, we have the power to build up a sustained strike now that begins to hurt the university’s operations. We can call a SICKOUT STRIKE, in which we call out from work sick. Since our contract provides for sick days, and there is no way to tell who is and isn’t actually sick, this is a protected way to strike, and we can use this to rally our members, until we are ready for a full strike. ALL members of 4811 can participate, and all and should be preparing to withhold their grades, winding down teaching, and beginning to pause or slow research, including in the labs and departments that receive millions in Department of Defense funding.

We should rally those of our members who are prepared to take on more risks for direct actions aimed at disrupting the functioning of the university. We should also prepare a union contingent capable of defending future student protests from police attacks, as the police will be more hesitant to attack a union picket—a police attack on a union picket line would not only break the law but would risk drawing in more of the labor movement. Everyone should do what they are comfortable with, but there is a range of possibilities and risk levels, and we will carefully plan and discuss the risks together.

We should be clear that the student protests are up against a well-organized campaign of repression that is being closely coordinated between university administrations, Zionists, and the state and national government. We can expect that when more protests on our campus occur, they will be met with even more ferocious and immediate police repression. Administrators and political officials want to cleanse the universities of organizers and radicals with police violence, expulsions, and criminal charges. Meanwhile, the labor bureaucrats that lead our unions don’t want to get involved or even talk about the role of the Democrats in the repression because that will put them up against Mayor Karen Bass, Governor Newsom, and the rest of the political establishment. When Chancellor Gene Block appears before Congress on Thursday, he will be questioned by right-wing politicians foaming at the mouth for yet more policing and repression. They’ll also want to know how it is that the UAW is being allowed to intervene. They’ll want to crush the union both with the law and with the police, and they will attack our right to launch a political strike.

This is not just about the UC. This is a police state attack on the entire working class, and on the right to protest and to strike, by a political establishment that is moving toward fascism. The only way to stand up to these forces is to unite the unions on our campus and beyond to take joint action. AFSCME, the union of service workers, patient care workers, and skilled craft workers, is calling a statewide action on Wednesday, in protest of their own low pay and mistreatment by the university. But the agenda for AFSCME’s rally completely leaves out solidarity with the protest movement or our strike. What we need is joint union action: if one union goes out, we all should go out. That is the only way to bring the university to its knees and win our demands.

We call on rank & file caucuses statewide to attend the statewide AFSCME rally and appeal to rank and file AFSCME workers for support. We call on rank & file caucuses statewide to attend the statewide AFSCME rally and appeal to rank and file AFSCME workers for support. We will be organizing an LA-wide LABOR FOR PALESTINE RALLY, and inviting rank and file workers from other unions and the rest of the student movement in Los Angeles to attend.

UAW 4811 should also establish a tribunal to investigate the events of April 30, especially the role of Chancellor Block, the UC Regents, and the city and state government in standing down the police and allowing the attack to go ahead, in order to alert the labor movement to the nature of these attacks. And we should fight in the LA Federation of Labor for a UNITED FRONT of labor against these attacks on the working class and for complete independence from the Democratic Party.

Please talk to your UAW department stewards about how to prepare to withhold your labor, and reach out to our caucus about getting involved! Keep an eye out on our social media for the actions taking place this week! And make sure to attend future People’s Assemblies so we can build real union democracy and run this strike ourselves!

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