“I don’t think a limited strike makes sense”

Growing calls for an all-out strike by UC academic workers

University of California Santa Cruz grad students on strike, May 20, 2024 [Photo: UAW Local 4811]

There are growing calls from academic workers and other members of the United Auto Workers for an all-out strike against the police crackdown on campus protests against the genocide in Gaza.

The University of California system is seeking to shut down the strike by filing a court injunction. Its anti-democratic maneuvers, which have the support of the entire political establishment, are aided by the UAW apparatus, which has called out only one campus and kept the vast majority of workers on the job.

There is enormous anger over the limiting of the strike, expressed in a number of recent statements denouncing the decision and calling for a UC-wide strike, including from the Students for Justice in Palestine. Meanwhile, the movement of rank-and-file committees against mass layoffs in the auto factories continues to grow, with workers in Kokomo, Indiana issuing a founding statement of their committee this week.

Objective conditions are growing for a class movement combining the fight against war with the fight of the working class against inequality and exploitation. On Tuesday, 1,100 student workers launched a strike at Western Washington University to demand higher pay, tuition forgiveness and other demands. The student workers are also UAW members, part of Western Academic Workers United (WAWU).

Significantly, a protest encampment was also formed last week at Western Washington. Protesting students marched out on Tuesday to take part in the picket line.

On Tuesday, UCLA postgraduate workers spoke out in favor of expanded strike action to the World Socialist Web Site. One political science PhD student said: “I think you have a lot of momentum, especially on UCLA’s campus and UC Irvine now, after what happened last week, where students are incredibly angry and you can use that to get people to turn around.

“So I don’t think a limited strike makes sense. And I think UAW 4811 leadership has been pretty behind closed doors, even during the strike negotiations. I don’t like them that much. I support the rank-and-file kind of committee much more in their take on things. I think, considering time constraints and considering the current circumstances, just call for a strike, like everywhere. People would turn up.”

Another PhD student said: “I’ve never really been a friend of UAW being in charge of our organizing. I didn’t really like the tactics during the 2022 strike. The people from the UAW seemed like they were running the whole thing. They were just a different type of people than most of the student workers. I just felt like we were being shuffled around like cattle and they were running the whole show.

“I am a Marine veteran,” he continued. “I was in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury … and a lot of the stuff that I saw that was actually happening in the country wasn’t being reported in the media. And I started to recognize back then that what was being reported in the media and what was actually happening was completely different. Like, it’s not even close to what was really happening.”

On the war in Iraq, he explained: “I think there weren’t a lot of combatants when we first entered the country. I feel like we were making enemies on purpose … maybe 90 percent of the people that they actually arrested and brought into detention centers weren’t necessarily combatants. That act of going in and taking people’s fathers, kicking people’s doors,” he explained, was like how Israel claims every Gazan is a member of Hamas. “They’re counting every male as an enemy combatant to them … they could just kill any guy and say that they were Hamas.”

A Ford worker in Ohio said he had been following the police attacks on student encampments. “The police overstepped themselves. They had no right to interfere in peaceful demonstrations. It is going to escalate. You can only push people so long. Civil unrest is coming. You can see it growing by the day.” On the effort to limit the UC strike to one campus and the union’s lack of action in general, he said, “The UAW could do a lot more. They are just hiding. they have done nothing.”

A Ford autoworker from Detroit also spoke out against the genocide to the WSWS. “What they are doing to the Palestinians reminds me of what they did to the [Native Americans]. They had land, and it was taken from them. They were massacred. “There was nothing reasonable about it … what they are doing sounds like Hitler and the Nazis.”

“I believe the students have the right to free speech,” she said. “Everybody does. Just because we put up with it for the time being doesn’t mean we like it. The younger people are speaking out.”