News & Commentary

June 9, 2024

Otto Barenberg

Otto Barenberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, a judge halts UC workers’ strike and South Korean Samsung employees stage the company’s first-ever walkout.

Late Friday evening, Judge Randall J. Sherman of the Orange County California Superior Court granted a temporary restraining order halting University of California (UC) student workers’ rolling strikes at six UC campuses. The strikes began in response to crackdowns on pro-Palestinian protests last month, and now encompass United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4811’s 48,000 members across the UC system—the largest work stoppage in the United States this year. The universities brought suit against the union on Monday, alleging breach of a no-strike clause and irreversible harm to students as final exams approach.

Judge Sherman’s emergency order, however, contravenes the California Public Employee Relations Board’s (PERB) denial of UC’s request to end the strike. The union argued to the Board that UC committed unfair labor practices by calling in police to disperse encampments and unilaterally altering workplace rules without bargaining. Judge Sherman refused to consider a motion filed by PERB itself that the Orange County judge should defer to its California labor law determinations. In a statement, the union argued: “It is nearly unheard-of for public employers to try and sidestep PERB’s jurisdiction when faced with an unfavorable decision. The university’s actions notwithstanding, PERB will retain jurisdiction and set the unfair labor practices for trial.”

On Friday, members of the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) staged a one-day strike to demand increased pay, a fairer bonus system, and additional paid leave from the electronics and chipmaking conglomerate. The union, whose 28,000 members constitute nearly one-quarter of Samsung’s workforce, called the walkout in response to a breakdown in contract negotiations. “The company doesn’t value the union as a negotiating partner,” Lee Hyun Kuk, vice president of NSEU, told the New York Times. Compared to non-union workers at Samsung, “it feels like we’ve taken a 30 percent pay cut,” Lee said. The company is the world’s largest chipmaker and dominates South Korea’s economy, accounting for 22.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2022, but has lost its technological edge and suffered weak earnings in recent years.

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