An Appeal to the Labor Movement from UAW 4811 Rank and File Workers

Original online here.

An Appeal to the Labor Movement from UAW 4811 Rank and File Workers

May 28, 2024

Starting Tuesday, May 28, UAW 4811 student workers at UCLA and UC Davis joined their coworkers at UC Santa Cruz on the picket lines. We are on strike because our employer, the University of California, has attempted to suppress peaceful protests and free speech on our campus, has repeatedly turned to police repression and violently attacked our workers and community members, and is now attempting to attack our union and our right to strike.

For nearly eight months, the Israeli military has slaughtered, terrorized, and maimed the people of Gaza, killing or injuring over 5% of the population in the Gaza Strip, in what can only be called genocidal levels of violence. Israel, supplied with billions of dollars in US-made weapons, has systematically bombed hospitals, universities, and churches; assassinated journalists and intellectuals; and forced practically the entire population into famine, mass starvation, and rampant disease. Israeli officials have made their intentions clear in public comments: to decimate Gaza, render it uninhabitable, and drive its people, whom they regard as “human animals,” into the desert of the Sinai Peninsula.

Countless unions in this country and across the world have taken a stand against this genocide by endorsing ceasefire resolutions, forming pro-Palestine caucuses that are fighting for divestment from military contractors and financial interests supporting the genocide, and, in a few cases, blocking military hardware bound for Israel.

In recent months, students and youth, including at the University of California, have taken a leading role in the anti-genocide protests despite a nationwide campaign of police repression. The University of California, a major state institution with over $100 billion in assets, is closely tied to the political establishment, the tech corporations headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the military-industrial complex in and around Los Angeles. The university directly invests hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons manufacturers; holds $2.1 billion in assets managed by Blackrock, the world’s largest private investor in military contractors; and invests billions more in corporate slumlord Blackstone and other companies directly implicated in the Israeli occupation. Students at the UC schools have taken a stand against this material support for genocide. While billions are spent on war and police repression, the working-class students of this university cannot afford a public education. Our workers—and our union brothers and sisters in AFSCME, SEIU, AFT, the Teamsters, and other unions—are not paid a living wage and are forced to struggle with rent burden and an ever-increasing cost of living.

Our employer, the University of California, has to date deployed the police against peaceful protesters at four UC campuses, arresting over 200 at UCLA, 64 in San Diego, 47 in Irvine, and 12 in Berkeley, some of whom sustained severe injuries. Most egregiously, on the night of April 30, UCLA administration and police deliberately stood by for over three hours as a mob of over 200 violent agitators attacked peaceful student protesters, including some members of our union. Students and workers were beaten with metal pipes and wooden planks, hit with fireworks, maced and teargassed, severely injuring many and sending 25 to the emergency room, while UCLA Chancellor Gene Block looked on. The following night, the university administration, with the assent and support of LA Mayor Karen Bass and Governor Newsom, used the violence from outside agitators as justification for sending in the LAPD and California Highway Patrol to clear out student protesters with rubber bullets and stun grenades. Over 200 students were arrested and charged with criminal misdemeanors. To date, only a single attacker from the assault of April 30 has been arrested.

The University of California has jeopardized the health and safety of its students and workers, violated their democratic rights to free speech and assembly, and unilaterally upended working conditions and changed procedures around employee speech and discipline. It has also, on numerous occasions, attempted to intimidate the members of our union, repeatedly claiming, falsely, that our strike is illegal and that workers can face disciplinary measures for participating. The university has also filed (unsuccessful!) injunctions against our union in an attempt to break our strike.

Last week, when our members picketed outside another student protest in an attempt to protect students from police violence, our members were shoved and harassed by security guards and riot police. Since our strike began at UCLA, security guards from three private agencies have been a constant presence. On day one, they came to every picket line, pursued us from location to location, and attempted to harass us and physically prevent us from picketing. They were joined by the police, who told us our strike was unlawful and threatened our entirely legal pickets with citations. These are attacks on all workers and unions, and our right to strike. A precedent is being set. These same union busting tactics will be deployed against other unions in the near future unless we stand up for our rights now.

We recognize that the success of our strike depends on the support of the entire labor movement in and beyond Southern California, and we therefore call on trade unions and rank-and-file workers across Los Angeles to support our strike. We call on unions in the LA area to issue public statements of solidarity, if they have not already, and to send contingents to join us on the picket lines. We also request that our members be invited to union meetings in order to speak to workers about our strike, the political issues involved, and how we can organize together both in this strike and in the future.

We thank the California Federation of Labor, the LA County Federation of Labor, and the Teamsters for sanctioning our strike. We call on labor unions and federations to hold the city and state government accountable for their complicity in the mob and police attacks on peaceful protesters. To this end, we ask that the LA Labor Federation assemble a committee to conduct an independent, working class investigation of the extent to which government officials approved, directed, and had foreknowledge of the mob attack of April 30.

Finally, we invite all workers, trade unionists, student protesters, and Palestine activists to attend a Labor for Palestine rally, which we plan to hold next week (details to be decided soon).


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