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California Academic Workers Ordered to Halt Strike Protesting Response to Anti-Israel Demonstrations

Unionized academic workers, upset about the University of California’s response to anti-Israel protests at various campuses, shout slogans as they strike at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, California, US, May 28, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake

A superior court judge granted the University of California system injunctive relief in a lawsuit filed to stop its employees from striking in violation of their contracts as part of a demonstration that, according to university lawyers, has been about politics and not labor issues.

Beginning on May 20, University of California (UC) faculty and staff abandoned their duties to protest what they claim was the unfair treatment of pro-Hamas protesters who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless administrators agreed to adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Among other things, the employees, represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, alleged that squelching the demonstrations, which necessitated arresting protesters, chilled free speech and fostered a hostile work environment.

The professors and staff refused to teach and perform other duties for which they are paid a salary.

The judge’s ruling is the first by an outside party to come down in favor of the UC system. Before it was rendered, the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) twice refused to stop the strike, arguing that the UC lacked legal standing. UC pressed on, suing UAW while charging that the strike stood to cause “substantial monetary” damages and derail students’ academic year.

“From the beginning, we have stated this strike was illegal and a violation of our contracts’ mutually agreed upon no-strike clauses,” Melissa Matella, UC associate vice president of labor relations, said in a statement on Friday, when Orange County Superior Court Judge Randall J. Sherman granted the temporary restraining order against the union. “We respect the advocacy and progressive action towards issues that matter to our community and our community’s right to engage in lawful free speech activities — activities that continue across the UC system. However, UAW’s strike is unrelated to employment terms, violates the parties’ agreements, and runs contrary to established labor principles.”

Matella also stressed the ruling’s importance to the well-being of students, saying a prolonging of the strike would have “caused irreversible setbacks to students’ academic achievements and may have stalled critical research projects in the final quarter.”

In a statement, the local UAW chapter leading the strike accused UC of “subverting labor law” and assailed the judge’s intelligence, suggesting that he is unqualified to preside over a labor law case.

“UC academic workers are facing down an attack on our whole movement,” UAW 4811 president Rafael Jaime said in a press release. “PERB, the regulatory body with the expertise to rule on labor law, has twice found no grounds to halt our strike. I want to make clear that this struggle is far from over. In the courtroom, the law is on our side and we’re prepared to keep defending our rights — and outside, 48,000 workers are ready for a long fight.”

The University of California has noted that the strikers are pressuring the university to condemn Israel and adopt the BDS movement, which aims to isolate the Jewish state from the international community as the first step towards its elimination. The school explained in a previous statement that professors have proclaimed that voting for a strike was “about divestment and Palestine” and that their “top demand that matters here is divestment.”

Professors have been attaching themselves to anti-Israel, pro-Hamas demonstrations for most of spring semester.

In some instances, faculty attempted to prevent police from dispersing unauthorized demonstrations and detaining lawbreakers, resulting in their arrest. That happened, for example, at Emory University in Atlanta, where economics professor Caroline Fohlin intervened to stop the arrest of a student. In response, officers tackled her to the ground while she said repeatedly, “I’m a professor!”

At Northeastern University in Boston, professors formed a human barrier around a student encampment to stop its dismantling by officers, and at University of Texas at Austin, members of the group Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine (FJP) openly called for the resignation of their president, Jay Hartzell, because he asked for police assistance in restoring order.

At Columbia University, anti-Zionist faculty at the school, as well its affiliate Barnard College, staged a walkout in support of the demonstrations and demanded the abeyance of disciplinary sanctions against anti-Zionist students — dozens of whom cheered Hamas and threatened more massacres of Jews similar to Oct. 7 — who violated school rules.

Scrutiny of faculty participation in the pro-Hamas demonstrations and efforts to change university leadership is necessary but has been lacking in public discourse about the protests, according to experts who have spoken with The Algemeiner since the unrest began.

“This situation is not sustainable, and we have to focus specifically on the faculty. Take away their shared governance. Take away their tenure,” Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, founder of campus antisemitism watchdog AMCHA Initiative, told The Algemeiner in April. “You have to get rid of tenure because it has protected faculty whose goal is to upend and undermine the university itself. It’s not just about social justice — their aim for decades has been to destroy the university as we know it and to use the university as a tool for revolutionizing society. If you can’t recognize how illegitimate that is, then the universities are lost. We will lose if we do not have the will to take them on.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Missile Barrage Hits Northern Israel, Emergency Services Report

Firefighters respond to a fire near a rocket attack from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, June 14, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli emergency services reported dealing with a string of fires in northern Israel on Friday after dozens of missiles were fired from southern Lebanon into the area around the border town of Kiryat Shemona.

The military said that warning sirens had sounded in northern Israel and emergency services said teams were searching the area, where they reported there was property damage but no casualties.

Television footage on Friday showed damaged buildings and cars as well as brush fires in several locations caused by strikes or falling debris amid heatwave conditions.

The Israeli military has exchanged regular fire with Hezbollah forces across the border in southern Lebanon ever since the start of the war in Gaza in October.

Neither side has appeared to wish a wider conflict, but there has been growing worry that the steady intensification of strikes could push the situation out of control with the risk of a wider conflict in a region that has already seen direct exchanges between Israel and Iran.

The latest salvo came after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, drawing the heaviest bombardment of northern Israel since the start of the war in October last year.

Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border, creating growing pressure to resolve the stand-off, but diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless.

On Friday, the Israeli military said fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems had intercepted 11 of the 16 drones launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the past 72 hours.

“The Israeli Air Force is continuing to operate at all times to thwart terrorist activities and protect Israel‘s skies from any threat,” it said in a statement.

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G7 Warns Iran Over Continuing Nuclear Program Escalation

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel pose for a family photo as they arrive to attend a dinner at Swabian Castle in Brindisi, Italy, June 13, 2024. Photo: Italian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

The Group of Seven leaders warned Iran on Friday against advancing its nuclear enrichment program and said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia, according to a draft communique.

“We urge Tehran to cease and reverse nuclear escalations, and stop the continuing uranium enrichment activities that have no credible civilian justifications,” the statement seen by Reuters said.

Iran has rapidly installed extra uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Fordow site and begun setting up others, a UN nuclear watchdog report said on Thursday.

Iran is now enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to the 90 percent of weapons grade, and has enough material enriched to that level, if enriched further, for three nuclear weapons, according to an IAEA yardstick.

Iran must engage in serious dialogue and provide convincing assurances that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, in full cooperation and compliance with the IAEA’s monitoring and verification mechanism, including the Board of Governors’ resolution of 5 June,” the G7 said.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The leaders also warned Iran about concluding a deal to send ballistic missiles to Russia that would help it in its war against Ukraine, saying they were prepared to respond with significant measures if it were to happen.

“We call on Iran to stop assisting Russia’s war in Ukraine and not to transfer ballistic missiles and related technology, as this would represent a substantive material escalation and a direct threat to European security,” they said.

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Doorstep Postings: A midtown Toronto byelection play for Jewish votes brings out new accusations of Conservatives keeping a swindler’s list

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. Voters in the St. Paul’s riding believe they’re living amidst Canada’s most consequential political happenings. Ottawa with its seething gossip, Quebec with its linguistic convulsions and the West with its populist stampedes are all considered child’s […]

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