Police Repression of UCLA SJP Encampment Led to the UAW4811 Strike Vote—So Why Isn’t 4811 Leadership Calling UCLA Out on Strike?

On April 30, two days before UAW4811’s Triennial elections—in which President Rafael Jaime would face a challenger running on a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for all, and a work-to-rule strike for Palestine platform—UCLA’s SJP encampment was violently attacked by Zionist agitators. Jaime was said to have stood alongside beleaguered encampment protestors and demanded answers to UCLA’s negligence. Jaime announced the next day to a crowd at UCLA that 4811 would be filing unfair labor practices charges against the UC for failing to protect workers’ right to free speech. That same night, LAPD violently swept the encampment. Jaime and his “Union MADE” Caucus (previously OSWP, affiliated with the UAW Administration Caucus) then called for a strike authorization vote, effectively opening the door for the union to strike in support of divestment demands.

Three weeks and an overwhelming “yes” vote later, the re-elected leadership continues to publicize the police brutality that occurred at UCLA, UCSD, and UCI on the official 4811 website and social media, but is yet to call a strike anywhere but UCSC. Meanwhile, they declined to offer a timeline or criteria for assessing strike readiness, and have barred rank-and-file members from attending Executive Board meetings to discuss the strike.

Since October 2023, local union chapters at UCLA, UCD, UCB, UCSC, and UCSB have passed numerous BDS resolutions and resolutions to commit to bargaining over BDS. Yet, Jaime and the leadership refused to disseminate this information to the membership; 4811 and Region 6 even endorsed the California Senate candidacy of Katie Porter, who repeatedly voted to send more money to Israel. Now, diverting attention from their weak position on Palestine and the perceived unwillingness to strike, the leadership claims that Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM) workers in 4811, which make up the majority of the current workforce during the summer break, are ambivalent about the strike.

This is false. Not only is the strike action widely and vocally supported in our locals, as evidenced by the strike authorization vote, many STEM workers have joined hand-in-hand with students defending the encampments, protested the US-funded genocide, and were themselves violently attacked by the police. Consider that the call to solidarity with Palestine reflects US public opinion, of which 52 percent of registered voters support an end to US military aid to Israel and 77 percent of Democrats are pro-ceasefire. By deriding our professions, workplaces, and ourselves as regressive, the 4811 leadership is using a trite stereotype as a wedge to divide us from our fellow workers and union siblings. Instead, they should be leveraging the power of STEM workers in the strike.

The urgency to end the US-funded genocide notwithstanding, the future of the labor movement will depend on a clear STEM organizing strategy. The US economy is becoming more and more intertwined with high technology, and universities like UC are rapidly expanding their STEM research operations. The composition of higher ed labor will thus be increasingly STEM-heavy, bolstered by the Department of Defense, the weapons manufacturers, and other industries profiting from developing harmful technologies. It will take a powerful labor movement consisting of a large number of militant STEM workers to disrupt the war machine and protect the rights and safety of all workers and communities.

Concretely at this current moment, it is time to implement the try-and-tested research strike strategy around work-to-rule, which allows STEM workers to withhold labor in the long run. We need to expand the strike to include as many people and as much labor-time as possible to achieve maximum leverage, as well as ensuring that striking workers are protected from retaliation. All of this requires decisive action from the union leadership, which has thus far not gone beyond publicizing slogans, wasting mobilizing energies, while blaming STEM workers for its own inaction.

We, STEM workers of UAW4811, insist that Rafael Jaime and the UAW4811 leadership comply with the popular mandate, seize this historical moment, and immediately call all UC campuses on strike for Palestine.

SftP Canada in solidarity with campus encampments

Science for the People (SftP) Canada stands with student-led encampments for Gaza that have arisen across Turtle Island (North America) and around the world. We condemn the militarization of campuses and the accompanying police violence against protesters, the defamation of student organizers by university administrators and politicians, and the violent attacks on students by Zionist vigilante groups.

Students with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are refusing to work in the service of occupation, apartheid, and genocide. Futures of AI are experimentally tested in occupied Palestine; legacies of racial science live on in eugenicist anti-Palestinian slurs; technological research assumes the inevitability of capitalist domination of the globe. But a generation of students dreams of an anti-imperialist science. We owe them the work of dismantling the histories that link militarism, scientific progress, racial science, and settler colonialism. We must reimagine STEM for liberation.

Our universities all express their commitment to “reconciliation” with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Yet, these same universities not only suppress their role in the genocide of the Indigenous inhabitants of the lands upon which they are built, but, through their financial and academic support of the Zionist occupation, are also actively complicit in the ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous Palestinian people. The struggle for Palestine is entwined with the struggle for the liberation of the Indigenous nations of Turtle Island.

Universities in North America have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with their peers in Gaza and cut their ties to illegal occupation, apartheid, and genocide. Since 2004, a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups and unions, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, has been calling for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and it is long past time for higher education institutions in North America to heed that call.

We unite in support of students’ demands on universities:

  • to disclose investments in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law
  • to divest from companies and institutions complicit in the occupation, apartheid, and genocide of Palestinians
  • to remove police from university campuses
  • to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine
  • to endorse academic boycotts of Israeli universities, including study abroad programs, fellowships, seminars, and research collaborations. 

Most importantly, SftP Canada unites with the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine.

UCSC Physicists Reject UC Complicity with Genocide of Palestine

In the past 75 years, the colonization and occupation of Palestine has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Before October 7th, 217 Palestinians had already been killed in the year 2023 alone.[1] Additionally, Gaza has been under a complete blockade -by land, sea and air- for the past 16 years by the Israeli military.[2] This violence has reached a new level of depravity in the last five months. There have been well over 30,000 Palestinian deaths since October 7th; 92% of these deaths are civilians, with nearly half of these civilians being children.[3] Over 50% of all buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, including hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and essential infrastructure for human existence, such as electricity and water.[4,5] In the West Bank, outside of Gaza, an additional 413 people have been killed since October 7th, 107 of whom were children. Countless more have been injured or detained indefinitely, often without charge.[6] Furthermore, 853 West Bank citizens have been made homeless by demolitions. As we were writing this document, Israel approved 3476 more houses for illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.[7] As this unspeakable violence continues to claim more Palestinian life every hour, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has called “on [their] counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes – most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research,” further emphasizing that “this urgent, genocidal situation can only be prevented by a mass increase of global solidarity with the people of Palestine and that can restrain the Israeli war machine.”[8] 

We, the academic workers of the UC Santa Cruz Physics Department, commit to honoring this request of solidarity by:

  1. Withholding academic labor benefiting militarism.
  2. Refusing research collaboration with federal military institutions as well as private arms and defense companies.
  3. Calling upon faculty and PIs in our department to disclose funding sources, resist suppression of political speech, and support their students in divesting their labor in the pursuit of ethical research.

The United States is Israel’s foremost benefactor. It has provided a cumulative $158 billion (non-inflation adjusted) in bilateral aid to Israel, 86% of which finances a sixth of the Israeli military budget, providing the military infrastructure used to carry out this genocide.[9] The University of California received $295 million in funding from the Department of Defense in 2022 alone, with UCSC receiving $10.5 million dollars to support research to make violence on this scale possible and efficient for the perpetrators.[10,11]

Additionally, demilitarization is a climate crisis necessity. The United States military produces more emissions than entire industrialized countries.[12] There is no teaching or learning on an uninhabitable planet.

For these reasons, demilitarizing our department and school is an ethical priority for graduate researchers and the faculty alike. Beyond our own department and in solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, we call on University of California graduate researchers and faculty to:

  • At minimum, disclose all sources of funding that support your research and students. Support students who wish to divest their intellectual labor in pursuit of “ethical science.”
  • Fight to withhold your research and patents from military applications. Campaign your institutions to reclaim ownership of your intellectual property and its applications.
  • Disclose and critically consider collaborations with any Israeli companies, NGOs and academic institutions that have shown themselves to be complicit in the genocide.  Support of the military action, economic strangling, and colonization of Palestine, even without active contribution, are some examples of such complicity.
  • Make your anti-genocide position clear to Israeli collaborators, share information on the actions of the military and human rights violations, and open discourse on what can be done from within an Israeli university to take action. Academic institutions have long been bastions of free speech and revolutionary thought, and so have acted as natural homes for the fight against oppression and tyranny. Encourage the condemnation of the Palestinian genocide by Israeli citizens, especially respected public figures like professors.
  • Critically evaluate the appeal of your work to military applications. For example, plenty of astrophysics of star formation and evolution, as well as fusion energy research informs nuclear weapons testing and development.[13] Lasers are integral to guided munitions as well as plenty of other military purposes. As the ones performing this research we have a unique responsibility in understanding the possible consequences of our work and advocating for our work to not be used to these ends.
  • Spread these actions beyond our department and into your own.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As faculty in the physics department we commit to supporting our graduate students and postdocs in their goals as outlined above:

Science magazine’s editorial bias against Palestinians

After reading Science’s absurdly one-sided story (February 28, 2024) on the effect of the genocide in Gaza on Israeli academics, I wrote an email to the news editor to intervene. He responded by offering to publish parts of the email as a “letter” in response to the story. I then reworked the text of the email to prepare it for publication and submitted a draft. The editor sent it back with substantial deletions, notably removing the paragraph describing the deliberate nature of the Israeli military’s destruction of academic life in Gaza. The sentence in which I explained the principles of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was also removed, on the grounds that “[w]e often don’t know the motivations of those calling for or practicing a boycott.” I pointed out to the editor that the initial story had speculated freely about the supposed antisemitic motivations of alleged boycotts of Israeli academics and insisted on retaining the deleted passages. The editor declined to withdraw the deletions and I decided not to allow the text to be published in amputated form. Below is the text, including the passages Science refused to publish.

It is grotesquely disproportionate to run a story on Israeli academics’ self-reported worries about possible difficulties in getting their articles published without so much as mentioning that the Israeli military has reportedly killed at least 94 Palestinian university professors and over 4,000 students since October. All 12 universities in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 625,000 students in Gaza currently have no access to education, not to mention the 1.7 million internally displaced people and the 2.2 million currently facing acute starvation at IPC Phase 3 levels or above.

The article dismissively refers in passing to “the Gaza Strip’s relatively small scientific enterprise” and contrasts it with “Israel’s far larger research community,” to which the rest of the article is dedicated. It seems as though we’re meant to conclude that the destruction of the “relatively small scientific enterprise” in Gaza doesn’t matter in comparison with Israeli academics potentially being invited less frequently to conferences. Failing to mention the 16-year Israeli blockade of Gaza, which—long before 7 October—prevented the entry of equipment and materials needed for research as well as the exit of academics trying to collaborate with partners outside Gaza, is an egregious omission.

The article states that “attacks on Hamas forces by Israel’s military have destroyed university buildings and other infrastructure,” despite the overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces have deliberately targeted civilian structures such as universities rather than simply destroying them incidentally in attacks on Hamas. The clearest instance is the Israeli military’s apparent controlled demolition of Al-Israa University in January, after they had used the site as a base and detention center for several weeks. This and other targeted attacks on academic life in Gaza have led the organization Scholars Against the War on Palestine to describe the Israeli military as committing “scholasticide”: “systemic destruction, in whole or in part, of the educational life of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”

Finally, the article quotes without comment an Israeli academic’s unfounded speculation about a “slippery slope of hatred” leading to anyone with a “Jewish name” being subject to boycott. However, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) clearly states in its “Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel” that “the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.” Individual Israeli academics, not to mention Jewish academics outside Israel, are not the target of the campaign, which is instead focused on partnerships with Israeli institutions such as the European Union’s Horizon Europe program.

By not explaining the principles of the academic boycott of Israel or even quoting a single critic of Israel’s policies and actions towards the Palestinian people, the article conflates opposition to the decades-long displacement and oppression of Palestinians with antisemitism, which is a common manifestation of anti-Palestinian racism. In addition to providing cover for that oppression, this conflation makes combatting actual antisemitism harder by falsely tying the Jewish people as a whole to the actions of the State of Israel. 

I hope Science will begin to devote a more proportionate amount of attention to the Palestinian scientists living under indiscriminate bombardment and now facing famine conditions due to Israeli restrictions on aid entering Gaza, as well as the continual raids, arrests, and other obstructions on universities in the West Bank.

Josh Lalonde
Science for the People

Palestinian Scientists Speak

Thank you very much for reaching out. The situation is horrid. Birzeit went online right away but it is limping along and the students are refusing to attend online classes. I wish they would attend online classes. It is not safe for them to travel to campus due to the safety on the roads leading to campus. We are unsure if the universities will be able to pay salaries in coming months.

My research on biodiversity is greatly restricted, yet I continue to make collections and conduct research on native plant propagation and restoration.

At this current stage my field research and collection work is too vulnerable to interference to be made public, but I do appreciate your assistance.

Perhaps we could discuss ways in providing research support to faculty at Palestinian universities who are attempting to carry out research, with small grants, research assistance, server/cloud donations, software, equipment, etc.

Thank you,

—O (Birzeit University)

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to say what is happening to us right now. In fact [the atrocity] started years ago when we were occupied and forcibly removed from our homes and land in Palestine. From that time till now we are suffering all horrible ethnic cleansing and mistreatment.

I don’t know if the world forgets that we are under occupation and blindly took all the Israeli media that “we are terrorists and want to kill them,” or that they know that we are so oppressed. Either way, I don’t know why they never move to help us.

We just want to live in peace and have our freedom like any other people in the world.

Here, we don’t have rights to move freely. Any moment they will stop you and tell you to “go back.” Where? I don’t know. “Just go back.” That’s all. Here, the soldiers have full rights to kill any Palestinian and at the end they will tell you that we threaten them. Settlers with the help of the army are terrorising Palestinian civilians and killed many poor civilian Palestinians. Israelis have full access to roads built in Palestine area A,B, or C. But we don’t.

We are living in concentrated camps waiting to be killed.  Here you have gates at every village. They will close it whenever they want. In some villages they close the gate after 6 pm and open it for a specific period of time. Like a jail. It is a military occupation running for 75 years.

Every day when I go to work I kiss my kids because I don’t know if I would come back. Just why?

The problem is that the majority of Israeli were taught that we are animals and should be killed. They don’t want to give us our basic needs of life. They want to suffocate us and force us to leave. They do it slowly and systematically so the world can’t see. They build settlements in all hilltops and for us we are not allowed to build at all in area C. Where to go? It is my home here; I was born  here; I will die here.

For doing research, we don’t have access to many chemicals and equipments. Yes, many chemicals are being refused, me personally, 2,4-D, a plant hormone is refused.

Gaza is a concentration camp, controlled by sea , land and air. There are 2.2 million peoples in 360 square km.

No clean water, no jobs , no hopes. What to do? Fight back. That’s what they did. They know that this will cost them a lot. But in any case, they are being killed solely in this open prison. What the Israelis are doing is killing children and women, terrorising Gazans so they will leave. Here, their plan is being carried out: kick them out to Sinai. This is not self defense.

No sir. They want Gaza because it has a huge gas revenue and the proposed route (alternative route) to transfer good from East to West that is to pass through Gaza. Americans know this; European know this; that’s why they are silent about the horrific killing of kids and women.

We are living under a brutal regime.

Regards,

—N (Tulkarm, West Bank)

Thank you for your kind solidarity and for being fully aware about what is happening here in Palestine.

I am a professor located in Nablus, West Bank. Despite being quite away of war in Gaza, we are in direct touch an effect of this war. Currently we are facing a full closure in the West Bank which made us living in total isolated cities. Moreover we are experiencing daily military invasions from the Israeli army which made us unable to pursue the academic semester and convert to virtual teaching. In addition to these challenging circumstances we are experiencing the following issues:

1. There is a massive anger towards the Western governments as we now believe that human rights are just private tools for the benefit of white people. The students as well as professors are not being able to exercise their daily routine because of the horrifying news coming from Gaza as well as the current conflict in the West Bank. We simply believe that we are the next target. We believe that is war is not against armed resistance, but also against any civilized existence of Palestinians including hospitals, economy, universities and history.

2. We start believing that the racism in the West turns from individual behavior to a national policy, especially when we see the official promotion of the fake posts and stories about what is happening in Gaza.

3. We feel, especially in the UK, that there is a “Black masking” of racism by putting all Black officials in the front.

4. We simply believe that the West’s colonization of the East is still existing, but instead of being directed by Western governments, they outsourced to Arab governments who are doing that.

5. In simple words,  all Palestinians now are supporting war-based solutions as we now believe that the Israeli and the Western governments will only appreciate peace when they only feel war.

Please stay in solidarity and let the people know that all what we need is be treated as humans.

Kind regards,

—T (Nablus, West Bank)

Memo to SftP NYC

I want to alert you to a “science happening” in the Upper West Side of Manhattan that I think deserves our attention.  Unfortunately, it is no longer a happening we can do much about; it is a fait accompli.  I am referring to the recent opening of the Gilder Science Center as a new wing of the American Museum of Natural History.  The Museum announced the opening with understated triumphalism.

A New York Times encomium to the Gilder Center written by Michael Kimmelman was less restrained.

Warning: Kimmelman’s article and its photographs may instill in you an urgent desire to visit the Gilder Center.  It is indeed impressive.  But as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.”  There is more to it than meets the eye, in ways that will probably not surprise any SftP members.

Kimmelman tips his hat to the “imperialistic and voracious” history of the Museum, and mentions, in passing, “years of sometimes acrimonious community engagement.”  That was an acknowledgement of the strong local pushback against the Gilder Center project in the neighborhoods surrounding the Museum.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York chapter of SftP wasn’t meeting at the height of the anti-Gilder protests.  It is too late to challenge it now, but at least we might want to provide historical perspective in order to help the public understand why it wasn’t such a great idea.

The moving spirits driving the project were not scientists or science educators, but billionaire investors.  It was a science-themed high-finance operation that grew into an unstoppable juggernaut crushing all critics, questioners, and protesters in its path.  Unsurprisingly, it enjoyed the unwavering bipartisan support of the political establishment at all levels.  The politicians milked the public’s fascination with the “gee whiz” aspects of science to sell the big-money construction scheme.

No one was protesting the creation of a beneficial new science education facility.  But while acknowledging that the shiny new science center could indeed serve to advance science education, they asked why it could not be constructed in one of New York City’s many underserved communities that suffer from a paucity of educational resources?  The Upper West Side of Manhattan, with the American Museum of Natural History as it was, already enjoyed an embarrassment of riches with regard to science education facilities.

Cary Goodman was a prominent opponent of the project for several years. Here are excerpts from a letter Dr. Goodman wrote to the New York Times in response to Michael Kimmelman’s previously mentioned puff piece praising the Gilder Center:

The new wing is neither “poetic” nor “theatrical.” The new wing is an extension of the museum’s colonial heritage and world view.  The new wing has been constructed at the cost of ancient trees, an enormous increase in air pollution, and with disregard for wildlife and residents.

Shamefully, the City Council increased its financing for the expansion by more than 600% in five years to $92,000,000.  Amazingly, no elected official opposed the private museum’s encroachment on public parkland.

Five thousand neighbors and park goers, including prominent West Siders like Bill Moyers, Holland Taylor, Philip Roth, and Billie Jean King, petitioned against the expansion.  At public hearings, the museum turned off opponents’ microphones, ignored requests for information, and crippled democracy.

Mr. Kimmelman excuses his bias in favor of the museum by writing that he might be “coming from a blinkered space.”  Might this explain why the Times, alone among all New York media, never met with, listened to, or wrote about the other side of this “joyful” story?

We might want to solicit a more in-depth analysis of the issue from Dr. Goodman.  I have heard him speak eloquently and at length about it, so I know he has a lot more to say about it.

–Cliff Conner