Student Assistant Labor United and the United Auto Workers Local 4811 at UC Santa Barbara hosted a town hall on May 24 to inform undergraduate students about the UC academic workers’ strike.  

Approximately 35 attendees discussed undergraduate solidarity with potentially striking academic workers. Michelle Cisneros / Daily Nexus

The town hall took place on the lawn in front of the UCSB Library to approximately 35 attendees, mostly consisting of undergraduate students. Members of UC Divest Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) presented on topics surrounding the strike and its goals. 

United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811 — the union representing 48,000 UC academic workers — held a strike authorization vote from May 13-15. The vote came after the union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against UC Los Angeles on May 3 and amended the charges to include UC San Diego and UC Irvine on May 10 for “the Administration’s conduct and actions” at pro-Palestine encampments. 

The strike authorization vote passed with 79% of votes stating that the academic workers are “demanding that [their] rights to free speech, protest and collective action be respected.” 

UAW’s demands include “amnesty for all academic employees” facing arrest due to protest, right to free speech and “divestment from UC’s known investments in weapons manufacturers and military contractors and companies profiting from Israel’s war on Gaza.”  

As of May 28, UAW academic workers are actively striking at UC Santa Cruz, UCLA and UC Davis. 

“We’re here to say that we’re undergraduates and union members who support the grad students in their union efforts and we’re here to inform people about it so that undergrads know what’s going on. Undergrads should direct their anger and frustration about strikes that happen in the future towards admin for not listening to us and hearing our voices instead of the grad students,” second-year sociology major and Student Assistant Labor United (SALU) member Clay Dau said. SALU is the union for student workers.

The event began at around 2 p.m., with remarks by third-year aquatic biology major and SALU member Jasmine Rebollar. 

“The UCs aren’t doing anything to protect students and academic workers and because of all these unlawful actions, essentially, the UAW 4811 called for a strike authorization vote,” Rebollar said. 

Members from UC Divest Coalition, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke next. They discussed the possibility of a divestment resolution by Associated Students (A.S.). 

“Our tuition dollars are invested in companies that directly enable the violence of occupation and apartheid. A divestment resolution from the Associated Students of UCSB is a call to the UC regents to divest endowment and pension funds from companies such as Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard [and] Caterpillar, which are corporations that directly facilitate and profit from [the] Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,” one speaker said. 

According to a leaflet handed out at the town hall by UC Divest Coalition, UCSB is currently the last UC to pass a divest resolution through the A.S. Senate. A divestment resolution has failed to pass in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021. The A.S. Senate is set to deliberate on a divestment resolution on May 29. 

Another UC Divest Coalition member discussed the connection between undergraduates and defense companies. 

“Defense companies come here and partner with UC students and they make them their interns [and] employees, which is how our own peers become complicit in the UC’s contribution to U.S. war crimes,” the speaker said. “What are the opportunities of work outside of here? It’s not much. One of the biggest industries that you can go into is the war industry. There’s a Raytheon right down the street. There’s a Lockheed Martin right down the street. So the conditions of this campus are very particular to the divestment movement.” 

First-year history and English double major and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) member Sofia — who wished only to be identified by first name — discussed the history of South African apartheid and its connection to the labor movement. 

“UAW divested from South Africa in 1978, and workers were the ones organizing the anti-apartheid protests on campus[es] which is [also] happening right now,” Sofia said. 

Fellow YDSA member and first-year political science major Ciara — who wished only to be identified by first name — extended upon points made previously to discuss the labor movement’s involvement in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  

“In November 2023, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions released an urgent call to action which, according to them, was met with silence by the larger international labor movement,” Ciara said. 

The last speakers were members from SJP, who wished to remain anonymous. They discussed the history of Palestinian organizing. 

“For 10 years, this campus has failed to address our complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestine [and] human rights violations committed by [the] Israeli government and today, the ongoing genocide [in] Gaza. Last week, we commemorated the 76-year anniversary of the ongoing Nakba, and so the genocide must be understood as the latest stage of the ongoing process of a slow and violent destruction and displacement of Palestinians,” one member said. 

Currently, there is no definitive answer as to when academic workers at UCSB will strike. The town hall concluded with a call to action for attendees to pledge their support of the possible strike. 

“As undergraduates, I think it’s our job to support workers in the struggle,” the SJP speaker concluded. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the May 30, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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