1. When is the strike and what kind of strike is it?
The UC Student Worker Union (UAW Local 2865) has voted to call for a two-day strike on April 2nd and April 3rd. On day one of the strike (April 2nd), certain campuses (not UCLA) will be striking over unfair labor practices that particularly impact members on their campuses. On day two of the strike, members will join together, calling for a statewide strike to protest numerous Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs). For more information on these ULPs, see this post: https://uawstrikeucla.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/why-we-strike-a-pattern-of-unfair-labor-practices/
UCLA will strike for one day on Thursday, April 3rd over unlawful intimidation of workers and management’s refusal to negotiate over TA/student ratios.
2. Do I have to strike?
The choice to strike is entirely yours. However, we urge you to strike. The option to strike was authorized in the most participated in elections the union has ever had by over 96%. This particular strike was authorized by an overwhelming number of the union’s large UC-wide representative body of graduate students and TAs, the Local’s Joint Council. Management’s pattern of illegal abuse of our rights has made striking the most effective and most important legal recourse to address these issues.
Consider what striking will do:
A. Striking demonstrates that we will not tolerate abusive treatment from our employers and makes that abuse less likely to reoccur. Already, management has modified intimidation tactics that they used during our last strike to try and avoid giving us reason to strike again.
B. Participating in the strike makes striking safe for you and other TAs who will be on the picket lines (there is strength in numbers). If you are on the fence about striking, consider how your presence on the picket lines will support those who have already decided to take a stand against abuse.
C. Striking makes the point that our labor is important and cannot be taken for granted. It is precisely because our labor is valuable and necessary that a strike is effective. Striking shows that our well being and rights are equally valuable, no more and no less, to the valuable public service we provide.
D. Striking demonstrates to undergraduates who’re about to enter the workforce why self-defense is important and how to carry out that self-defense. For undergraduates who’re part of communities who experience marginalization or abuse at the UC, seeing that their TAs don’t see abuse as a normal part of work and the university may itself be a powerful act of solidarity and modeling.
E. Striking places you in the proud tradition of those who’ve taken action and made sacrifices to build the university that we enjoy today.
F. Recently the union representing service and patient care workers in the UC, AFSCME 3299, struck or threatened to strike multiple times over intimidation and unfair treatment. As a result, regardless of whatever inconveniences were generated during strike periods, they have achieved better treatment for themselves and set new standards of what is and is not acceptable for years to come. Their efforts not only achieved positive results for themselves but for the patients and workers they serve for years to come. In other words, the strike is not just about today and us, but abut tomorrow and those who will come after us.
3. Can I face retaliation for striking?
No. Provided you perform no work duties on the day of the strike, you cannot be retaliated against. Our strike is a legal strike and your participation is protected by law. If you believe you have been retaliated against, contact the union immediately: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. What about intimidation?
You cannot be intimidated into not participating in a strike. Under labor law, what constitutes intimidation works on a case-by-case basis and has largely to do with whether a given act achieved intimidation.
Emails, personal conversations, and any other form of communication can constitute intimidation.
Once the strike is over, there is no reason for management to follow-up with you about your participation. Remember that the point of all intimidation is to stop you from striking. Don’t let them. The more intimidation you receive, the more reason you have to exercise your rights.
If you believe that you are being intimidated, if you feel intimidated, or even if a tone has been set that deters you from exercising your legal rights as a worker contact the union immediately: email@example.com
5. I was told that this strike is illegal, is it?
Our strike is entirely legal. Some workers are being told that our strike is illegal in a desperate effort to suppress turnout. It is a common management tactic to lie to workers about the legality of a strike in the lead-up to a strike. The point of this tactic is to suppress turnout, which is unfortunately seen as a higher priority than telling the truth to workers.
Remember – scaring us while exercising our rights is one of the primary reasons we will be striking this Thursday. We should not be surprised by these tactics. Rest assured your participation is protected under the law.
6. I got an email asking if I’m going to be working on Thursday, should I respond?
Do not respond to any inquiries about your participation. Such inquiries may constitute illegal intimidation. You have no obligation to inform your employer about your participation in a strike.
There is a form email being sent around that seems like a friendly and reasonable request for information. It is formatted to look like it is from an immediate supervisor or department official. Department staff are being asked by upper-level management to make these inquiries. The inquiries are neither reasonable nor friendly, but part of a state-wide upper management strategy to suppress strike participation.
Here are some things you need to know about these inquiries:
A. Management cannot “assume you will not be working” if you fail to respond. This is a tactic designed to pressure you into giving up your legal rights.
B. You can decide to strike at any time, including the last minute. You can also change your mind. You do not have to notify your employer at any point.
C. If you do not plan to strike, responding can help management identify those who will be striking. Not responding is one way you can help those who will be standing up on your behalf.
D. By not responding you help send a message that we know our rights and that intimidation will not be tolerated, which is the point of the strike.
E. For the vast majority of us, there are no replacements that can step in to perform our work. This is the power and purpose of a strike. The less management knows, the more effective our strike is.
7. Can I attend my section, explain the strike, and then adjourn class?
Not legally. Under the law, coming to class is considered performing part of your labor and performing part is considered a “partial strike.” If you do this and you are caught, you will be vulnerable to punishments that you are not subject to if you performed no work duties. Performing no work duties is the safest way to strike.
8. But I want to let my students know, can I? How?
You absolutely can let your students know about the strike. In fact, we highly encourage you to notify your students of your participation and explain to them the reasons TAs, tutors, and readers will be striking. You do not have to protect grown adults who attend this university from the knowledge of what is really going on in this university. We believe that your students actually have a right to know the truth and to have access to a richer understanding of the community they are part of.
You can email your students. You can even inform your students that a great way to support our strike is to attend picket lines. You can ask for time from a supervisor in the lead-up to the strike to explain what will be happening on April 3rd, if you think your supervisor will be supportive. You can also find other creative ways to let students know that you will not be working on Thursday.
9. Can my pay be docked?
Under the law management can dock your pay for hours you do not work while striking. However, consider the following:
A. Most of our work is done autonomously and independently. The only work of ours that can be easily tracked is time spent in a classroom.
B. We work above and beyond our hours by the time a quarter is finished, and it is easy to show that. It is difficult to dock pay for “not working” from a group of workers that are consistently overworked.
C. Quantifying the amount to dock for each individual across the entire UC-system is extremely labor intensive, and docking pay would have to be done case-by-case.
D. The point of docking pay is purely to suppress strike activity. But management expressing that pay will be docked, depending on how it is done, can constitute intimidation.
F. Pay is not docked in the overwhelming number of instances where workers cannot perform their job duties during various times in a quarter. This makes docking pay during a strike that management has a special opposition to special enforcement.
E. The union will fight any and all cases of pay docking where any of the above grounds for opposition are applicable, which is likely to be every single case of pay docking.=
F. Management did not dock pay during our strike in November, though they had threatened to.
G. We have to show that we are willing to sacrifice, and then to potentially sacrifice, if we are going to change how the university operates.
10. Do I have to be working as a teaching assistant, tutor, or reader to strike?
There are many ways to understand what a strike is. One way to understand a strikes is as disruption of daily life generated from the withdrawal of participation in normal activities.
In a strictly legal sense, this strike will be a strike of TAs, tutors, and teaching assistants over unfair labor practices creating a disruption on campus through withdrawal of their normal participation in the labor of teaching.
However, nothing stops anybody who is not a TA, tutor, or teaching assistant from deciding to strike. If you are a graduate student or undergraduate who is not working as TA, tutor, or reader (or any job classification represented by UAW 2865) you may join pickets and strike from other normal activities at your discretion. In many cases, people who are not currently working in the bargaining unit have a greater freedom to picket and strike as they are not bound by the legal restrictions and coercion that TAs, tutors, and readers will be (though also not protected from punishment – so be careful skipping another job to participate!). The more we all decide to withhold our normal participation from the university, the more effective the strike will be.
11. How can I support the strike?
There are many ways to support the strike. You can:
A. Join the picket lines on Thursday. We will keep our facebook page updated with the location of pickets – https://www.facebook.com/UCLAStudentUnion
B. Send out the link to this blog and forward other strike-related emails from the union and fellow members to everybody you think should be participating
C. Sign our strike pledge and encourage others to do so – https://uawstrikeucla.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/pledge-to-support-the-strike/
D. Attend whatever meetings are scheduled in the lead-up to the strike, again by staying appraised at our facebook page.