After 22 UC Santa Cruz students were arrested in last week’s United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 strike, any attempt at a peaceful protest was lost. The strikers were charged with allegedly blocking roads and UCSC’s West entrance, which left the UC police within their right to arrest protesters.
While previous strikes at UCSC, such as fall quarter’s AFSCME strike, also blocked both campus entrances, no arrests were made. As the UAW strike posed no harmful threat to the safety of the campus or the Santa Cruz community, we feel these arrests were an inappropriate response given the calm and peaceful nature of the protests.
Considering the number of strikes either taking place or threatened to take place at UCSC this year, the administration had to exercise some degree of control in response. It has an obligation to the students to provide access to academic resources, and doing so hinges upon keeping the campus open. While the administration had to honor these obligations, utilizing police force and intimidation was by no means the appropriate way of going about it.
As UAW striker and graduate TA Jeb Purucker noted, using intimidation tactics such as arrests against a protest aimed at the administration’s intimidation tactics was ironic. Negotiation, rather than intimidation, was needed.
The UAW strikers expressed that they did not receive enough attention regarding negotiations from the administration. Though members of the UCSC administration took the time and effort to pull together UC police from the UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley campuses in addition to the UCSC police, they didn’t devote the same amount of time to negotiations prior to the anticipated strike activity.
At present, as UAW members tentatively wait to see if the administration responds or reacts in any way to the strikes, executive vice chancellor Allison Galloway made it clear they do not intend to take part in negotiations with the UAW for “a little while.” We at City on a Hill Press urge the administration to follow through with these negotiations and give UAW’s grievances the attention they deserve.
We recognize many students and faculty opposed the strike, and with good reason. Individuals who work or commute to campus were kept from their housing, classes and even medical needs during the first week of classes.
Despite the way in which strikes impede campus operations and functions, it is important to realize the UAW did not strike with the intention of hurting or upsetting students and faculty. In fact, the TAs, the AFSCME members speaking at rallies, the students arrested — the majority of whom were undergraduates — and the campus employees in solidarity with the UAW took such an extreme stance the first week of school ultimately to improve the educational environment of the campus.
The TAs protested because they feel they have too much work and too little support from the administration. They struggle to provide students with the time and teaching they deserve. The students who drove by the strikers while motioning their thumbs down and who voiced their anger on Facebook were the very students the TAs were advocating and striking for.
What can ultimately be taken away from this recent strike is the vexation felt by both the UAW strikers and administration alike. The administration chose to take a much more aggressive stance against these kinds of strikes in response to the concerns of students and campus residents. The arrests however were too extreme for a protest intended to be peaceful.
The administration’s reluctance to negotiate prior to the strike, as well as the slow response that followed, is not the answer to these protests and voices. This strike and the passionate responses from both sides is a sign of UAW’s need to be heard. The UCSC administration should listen.