University of California Grad Workers: Continue the Strike By Other Means (UCLA Rank and File for a Democratic Union et al)

Original online here, here, and here.


On June 7, the Orange County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against UAW 4811 at the request of the University of California Board of Regents. In effect, the court has ordered workers not to strike and has prohibited labor withholding and picketing activities until June 27. This court decision circumvents the statewide ruling of California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which has twice struck down the UC’s attempts to declare our strike unlawful. As UCLA Law professor and labor law expert Noah Zatz has argued, the California State Legislature passed a law, the Little Norris-LaGuardia Act (California Labor Code 1138.1), to specifically limit orders like the one Orange County Superior Court Judge Randall J. Sherman granted to the UC. With this TRO, Judge Sherman seemingly defied the legislature, ignored precedent, and circumvented PERB, the state agency with authority over unfair labor practice (ULP) charges filed by our union.

This is an unprecedented attack on workers’ rights and the labor movement, and a brazen attempt to undermine California labor law and the California Constitution. In seeking out one of the most conservative courts in the state to achieve a ruling in their favor, the UC Regents—the unelected board of landlords and real estate moguls appointed by the governor to operate this university like a corporation—have made it clear that they will do anything to undermine our strike and the power of our organized labor. The UC Regents, and the Democratic Party that supports them, maintain close ties to arms production, surveillance, and policing, and they are willing to subvert labor law and legal precedent in order to protect their investments and their power. Their repression has forced our union to file further ULP charges against the UC, but we know that this is not enough.

To our colleagues in UAW 4811: To be clear, the TRO cannot and does not determine whether our strike is legal—only PERB can do that. We must not be cowed in this critical moment. To back down now is to concede to the UC Regents’ vicious repression of our protests now and in the future, whether over unfair labor practices or the UC’s complicity in genocide. While the ruling from Orange County is neither legally legitimate nor morally acceptable, it enables the UC to increase its retaliation against our most vulnerable members and thus necessitates that we reevaluate our tactics. By continuing the strike through working to rule, we can slow our labor to a near-standstill and prevent the UC from accessing the product of our labor they most want: student grades. We owe it to our colleagues and students in on-campus organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine and UC Divest, who have been leading mobilizations in solidarity with Palestine. We must continue to leverage our labor power to fight for a safe workplace and for divestment from genocide.

To the labor movement: This is a calculated attack on the right to strike and on the rights of workers everywhere. If allowed to stand, the University of California’s decision to circumvent the authority of PERB and subvert California law would set a dangerous precedent for US labor law. Specifically, it would allow employers to undercut the jurisdiction of agencies like PERB and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which were created to uphold labor law and protect workers’ rights. Just as Amazon, Starbucks, and SpaceX attempt to legally challenge the constitutionality of the NLRB as retaliation for their workers’ organizing efforts, the UC attempts to undermine PERB’s authority in order to punish UC graduate student workers for our current strike. Make no mistake: this is an attempt by the capitalist class not only to stifle worker organizing but to undermine the infrastructure for enforcing labor law in this country. We must join together to fight this heinous attack on workers’ rights, on labor law, and on our moral imperative as workers to stand against the genocide in Palestine. 

To the Public Employment Relations Board: We urge you to move expeditiously and to recognize the legality of our strike. Not only are the UC’s actions a threat to labor, they are a direct threat to the authority of PERB and the sanctity of California labor law, and should be treated as such.

To the University of California Regents and administration: We cannot pretend to be surprised by your callous disregard for the rights of your workers and students: not after UCLA Chancellor Gene Block watched idly as Zionist vigilantes attacked us and our students, not after multiple UC administrations invited the cops to brutalize and dismantle student-led Palestine solidarity encampments, not while you subject students and workers—especially those who are Black, brown, Palestinian, and/or Muslim—to ongoing targeted harassment on our own campuses, and not when you’ve determined that standing up against genocide is a “violation of the student code of conduct.” We condemn these actions and we condemn your current efforts to subvert the law by deploying the same authoritarian tactics that right-wing politicians and judges across the US use to attack civil rights. We understand that your particularly vicious response to our organizing is precisely because we are organizing and striking in solidarity with Palestine. We demand the disclosure of all UC investments in companies and institutions that are complicit in the Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide, and the divestment of said funds and boycott of said companies; cops off campus; amnesty for all students and workers facing disciplinary action or arrest due to their involvement in or support for the Palestine solidarity efforts on campus; free speech and political expression protections; and transitional funding for researchers who refuse to receive funding tied to the military or foundations that support Palestinian oppression. Cease your illegal attempts to quash our organizing and to break our solidarity with Palestine.

To the people of Palestine and the Palestinian resistance: We offer you our steadfast solidarity in your continued struggle against occupation and genocide. We remain committed in our opposition to US imperialism and specifically to the University of California’s vast investments in corporations and industries that facilitate and profit from your suffering. As workers, we heed your call to honor the Palestinian trade union picket line by confronting the role of the US in the genocide and by pushing relentlessly for divestment within our workplace. Our commitment to this ongoing organizing is foremost a commitment to your struggle and your liberation.

UCLA Rank and File for a Democratic Union
Rank & File Irvine
Davis Rank and File
UCSD Graduate Workers United for Palestine

University of California Student Association
UCSB Liberated Zone
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
Queer Arts Collective UCSB
Colectiva: UCSB Latinx Grad Union
National Students for Justice in Palestine
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA
Graduate Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA
Faculty for Justice in Palestine at UCSC
Faculty for Justice in Palestine at UCLA
Faculty for Justice in Palestine at UC Riverside
Grupo de Acción Revolucionaria
University of California Santa Cruz Student Dining Workers Union
Student Labor Advocacy Project (SLAP) of UCLA
National Organization of Legal Services Workers, UAW Local 2320
Healthcare Workers for Palestine Los Angeles
​​UCLA Teacher Education Program Cohort Coalition
Writers Against the War on Gaza
Science for the People
UAW Labor for Palestine
Student Workers of Columbia – UAW Local 2710

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