University of California academic workers: Vote “yes” on strike! Workers must fight the genocide and attacks on democratic rights!

Joseph Kishore
Students and faculty march against the genocide in Gaza, on the UCLA campus, April 29, 2024.

As the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for president, I call on all graduate students and other academic workers in the University of California system to vote “yes” on the strike vote, which begins Monday.

The vote is in response to the attack on protests at UCLA, where cops, with the complicity of the UC administration, stood down as right-wing Zionists attacked student protesters for hours, then went in the following night and arrested the students themselves.

This is part of a nation-wide crackdown on protests over the past several weeks. In total, more than 2,900 students and other opponents of the genocide have been arrested by cops who have stormed encampments in riot gear.

The crackdown was clearly timed to take place in advance of the Israeli invasion of Rafah, which began this past week, the latest and most brutal act in a genocide that has killed more than 45,000 people, the majority women and children.

Biden is overseeing the attack on protests, which has the support of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Both the Democrats and Republicans fully back Israel in carrying out the genocide. Since the onset of Israel’s genocidal campaign last October, the Palestinian trade unions have called on workers of the world to block the production and shipment of weapons to Israel.

While workers in every country support this call, in the United States, major trade unions, such as the United Auto Workers (UAW), Teamsters, and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have kept their members on the job, producing and transporting war materiel to Israel.

The UAW is limiting and delaying strike action in an attempt to placate thousands of outraged workers and students. First, UAW Local 4811 delayed the vote, waiting nearly two-weeks after students and members were assaulted before holding a vote. Now it is saying that any strike action would be modeled off of the “stand-up strike” organized by UAW president Shawn Fain for the auto strike last year.

The “stand-up strike” was deliberately designed to have as little impact on the auto companies as possible, with the vast majority of workers continuing to pump out profits. Fain and Co. then shut down the strike and rammed contracts that have paved the way for mass layoffs.

As for a strike at UC, the UAW apparatus has declared, “When the strike is authorized, if circumstances justify, UAW members at any campus, anywhere across the state could be called to stand up and walk off the job at any time.”

But graduate students are not voting to strike if “circumstances justify,” nor to strike one campus or one department while everyone else continues to work. Grad students are voting to take collective action to defend their democratic rights against brutal police repression.

The efforts of the UAW local apparatus to sabotage the strike are being carried out in careful coordination with Fain. Fain has endorsed “genocide Joe” Biden and has appeared jointly with him in promoting the “arsenal of democracy”—that is, the subordination of the working class to the escalating global war.

How can a strike against police repression be organized by an apparatus that politically supports a government that is overseeing the police repression and has backed the genocide against which the protests have been targeted? A real fight to defend democratic rights requires a rebellion against the UAW apparatus and the mobilization of the entire working class, through the development of rank-and-file committees.

The SEP campaign supports the demand by Mack Trucks worker Will Lehman, who ran for UAW president last year, for immediate strike action by the entire 400,000-strong UAW membership. In calling for the mobilization of the entire working class, Lehman explained, “The same corporate interests behind the war in Gaza are carrying out mass layoffs to smash our resistance to exploitation… We have to combine the fight against war and attacks on our rights with the fight to defend jobs.”

The SEP campaign calls on all workers to come to the defense of the students who have been arrested for protesting the genocide in Gaza. It is the working class that has the social power to oppose the antidemocratic conspiracies of the ruling class and stop the war!