Yale graduates stage pro-Palestinian walkout of commencement


Fallout from a violent attack weeks ago on pro-Palestinian activists encamped at the University of California, Los Angeles, reverberated on the UC Santa Cruz campus on Monday as academic workers there staged a protest strike organised by their union.

Much of the student activism has been aimed at academic institutions’ financial ties with Israel and US military programs benefiting the Jewish state.

Protests in sympathy with Palestinians have in turn been branded by pro-Israel supporters as antisemitic, testing the boundaries between freedom of expression and hate speech. Many schools have called in police to quell the demonstrations.

At UC Santa Cruz on Monday, hundreds of unionised academic researchers, graduate teaching assistants and post-doctoral scholars went on strike to protest what they said were the university’s unfair labor practices in its handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The strikers are members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811, which represents some 2,000 grad students and other academic workers at UC Santa Cruz, and about 48,000 total across all 10 University of California campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Last week, the UAW 4811 rank-and-file voted to authorise union leaders to organise a series of “standup” strikes through the end of June on individual or groups of UC campuses rather than across the entire university.

The Santa Cruz strike marked the first union-backed protest in solidarity with the recent wave of pro-Palestinian student activists, whose numbers, according to the UAW, include graduate students arrested at several University of California campuses.

Union leaders said a major impetus for the strike was the arrest of 210 people at the scene of a pro-Palestinian protest camp torn down by police at UCLA on May 2.

The night before, a group of pro-Israel supporters physically attacked the encampment and its occupiers in a melee that went on for at least three hours before police moved in to quell the disturbance. The university has since opened an investigation of the incident.

The strikers also are demanding amnesty for grad students who were arrested or face discipline for their involvement in the protests.

UC Santa Cruz issued a statement saying campus entrances were briefly blocked in the morning by demonstrators, prompting the school to switch to remote instruction for the day.

The University of California has filed its own unfair labor practice complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Board asking the state to order a halt to the strike.

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