Email to Members 6/8/24 (UCLA Rank and File)

Original online here.

email to members 6/8/24

Dear colleagues,

On Friday, Orange County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against UAW 4811 at the request of the UC Board of Regents. The court has ordered workers not to strike, under threat of reprisals to the union. In effect, the court is prohibiting labor withholding and picketing activities until June 27, when the case will be heard again. This court decision circumvents the statewide ruling of the body with jurisdiction over our case, California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). As UCLA Law professor and labor law expert Noah Zatz recently argued, the California State Legislature bypassed a law, the Little Norris-LaGuardia Act, that specifically limits orders like the one Orange County Superior Court Judge Randall J. Sherman granted to the UC. With this TRO, Judge Sherman seems to have defied the California Constitution, ignored precedent, and circumvented PERB. In short, the UC and Judge Sherman are flouting the law in order to break our strike and make it seem illegal—which is not a decision they can make. Only PERB can decide on the legality of our strike, and they have not yet issued a ruling and have twice denied UC’s injunction to stop us from striking.

This TRO should not be seen as a legal invalidation of our strike—which Judge Sherman cannot decide—but another unjust effort by the UC to suppress students’ and workers’ right to protest and speak out against an ongoing genocide. The dirty tactics employed by the UC to quash organizing against genocide, for divestment, and to protect free speech on campus are, unfortunately, increasingly the norm when it comes to employers repressing workers organizing around Palestine. This is yet another way in which Palestine is an exception. Rather than hear out the demands of workers in good faith—demands that are in alignment with Students for Justice in Palestine and the encampment—the UC has responded by militarizing our campuses, allowing violent Zionists to attack our students, inviting LAPD and other police forces to arrest our students on campus, and then used those arrests to justify disciplinary actions. When PERB did not give them a favorable ruling, the UC undermined PERB’s authority to find a conservative judge inexperienced in labor law to do so. We must not be cowed by these attempts to use the legal system, which has historically been used by elites to protect their own interests, to limit our rights. 

So what happens next? We have to stand strong and continue our strike. If we back down, we allow the ruling class to determine how we protest unfair labor practices—and how we fight genocide. The UC is attempting to capitalize on Orange County’s conservative courts to not only quash our strike but undermine the authority of PERB over our rights as workers—and this will have really dire consequences for the entire US labor movement. We must continue to leverage our labor power to fight for a safe workplace, for divestment from genocide, and for all of our demands.

  • Keep withholding your labor! Don’t submit grades or research deliverables. Even if you’re still weighing the risks or anticipating retaliation, we’d encourage you not to submit anything yet—at least for the next few days, as we continue to discuss the situation and plan next steps together.
  • Organize a department meeting ASAP to share info, ask questions, and gauge readiness for this next stage of the strike
  • Fill out this survey and share it with your coworkers so we can gauge our collective readiness for this next stage of the strike
  • Join us on campus on Monday:
  • 11 am – Rank-and-file assembly with info session on the TRO and our right to strike at Court of Sciences
  • Kitchen Committee will be serving lunch!
  • 2 pm – SJP action
  • 6 pm- UCLA UAW 4811 strike strategy meeting at Fowler Amphitheater
  • Look out for a FAQ/risk assessment guide focused on recent developments from us soon
  • Be brave! The UC intends this TRO to scare us off from striking; we must not give in to union busting and intimidation!

We understand that union leadership is concerned about the legal and financial ramifications of this case, and is thus providing members with the most cautious and conservative estimation of potential risks. We agree that everyone should be aware of how the UC might retaliate against workers and prepare accordingly. However, as rank-and-file workers with no formal authority in UAW 4811, we believe that it is up to us, the workers, to collectively determine our risk, what we’re willing to fight for, and how we plan to do so. If you are concerned about how this will affect you and your work, we encourage you to not make that decision alone; instead, attend department meetings and our rank-and-file assemblies to decide with your coworkers how we will move forward in lockstep with each other and in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Fortunately, we are not alone in this fight—though we have a great responsibility to continue it. In November of 2023, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2335, faced a similar legal threat for their support of Palestine. When a Nassau County Supreme Court Judge ordered a Temporary Restraining Order over the union’s vote on a Palestine solidarity resolution, 2335 workers, including then-president Michael Letwin, stood firm and fought back. Letwin said: “There’s a genocide going on, and we’re not going to just ignore that, anymore than we would ignore what was happening in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. We will not be silent, and we will not be silenced.” And in a recent statement of solidarity, our academic union siblings in the University of Michigan’s Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO-AFT Local 3550), express their regret at surrendering and breaking their previous strike in response to a legal threat and encourage us to “Strike to win!” Understanding that we may face increasing retaliation for violating a TRO, including exorbitant fines to our union, we must decide whether to give into threats from the boss and fear-mongering by our union leadership or whether we will make a plan for continued collective action. By legitimizing the TRO and breaking our strike now, we not only undermine the legitimacy of our Unfair Labor Practice charges but cause long-term, potentially irreparable damage to the wider labor movement and concede our strongest leverage in our fight to honor the Palestinian Trade Unionists’ picket line and to help end the genocide in Palestine.

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