July 18, 2024

For over 3 weeks, graduate students and academic workers across the University of California (UC) system represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) have been on strike. Workers authorized the strike on may 15th over the university’s brutal crackdown of the workers and students who, exercising their rights, protested against Israel’s on-going genocide in Gaza and the material support which the university supplies.

From the moment that workers authorized a strike, UC and the capitalist interests which it represents initiated a legal campaign against the strike. They have called on the bourgeois courts to declare the strike illegal, claiming that the strike violates the “No strike” clause of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and UC. The school attempted and failed twice to stop the strike before the Public Employment Relations Board. They continued their efforts in the courts and on June 7th, Superior Court judge Randall J. Sherman granted a Temporary Restraining Order. This order legally bars the UAW and “their agents, employees, representatives, officers, organizers, committee persons, stewards, members, and all corporations, unincorporated associations, and natural persons acting in concert and participation with any of them” from all strike activities “while the no-strike clauses in the CBAs are in effect.” With this, the courts have made the strike illegal but this cannot and should not stop the strike. This ruling, while unjust, is not surprising given the class character of the (so-called) justice system. Everything from the laws to the courts that litigate and apply them, are there to favor the capitalist class and we cannot expect them to side with workers.

The courts, in their role as a mechanism of capitalist power, do not need any excuse to side against workers but the negative role played by “no strike” clauses cannot be overlooked. The strike weapon, our ability to withhold the only thing we have as workers, our labor-power, is one of our strongest tools in the fight against the bosses. To allow it to be taken away, even for substantial short term gains, is a grave mistake. Any contract with such a clause must be rejected out of hand. Further, any leader who promotes this idea should be exposed for what they are, an enemy of the workers.

Workers have been struggling against the bosses since the beginning of our country. Decades before the National Labor Relations Act was passed or the National Labor Relations Board was established, workers have gone on illegal strikes to demand better wages and working conditions. Not only were all strikes deemed illegal back then but even unions themselves were too. The legality or lack thereof, of strikes did not give the workers pause instead they faced it head on. We cannot allow this unjust ruling to cause us to falter.

Now is not the time to be implementing a failed strategy like the stand up strike nor should the workers return to work. It is time to fight for the just demands of the workers. A half-strike must not take the place of a full, real strike of all 48,000 workers, especially in an illegal strike where state repression and police violence are a guarantee. The smaller the force, the easier it will be for the capitalist class to suppress it so we must demonstrate our full strength as workers.

The CWPUSA stands in complete solidarity with the students and workers in their struggle against UC!