Labor movement activists at UCLA have been mobilizing since Trump’s election for a “sanctuary campus” which protects the undocumented community and other vulnerable populations. Student and worker delegations have marched on the administration building twice demanding a meeting, greeted only by police. We also hosted a town hall and, just last Saturday, interrupted the Chancellor as he spoke at an event titled “Responding to the Challenges of the Next Four Years,” which excluded both the voices of UCLA’s directly affected communities and a discussion on sanctuary campus policies.
In response to this pressure campaign, a delegation from the Student Labor Advocacy Project (SLAP) coalition finally met with UCLA’s Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs on Tuesday May 2, the day after a May 1 walkout and rally on UCLA’s campus demanding sanctuary policies.
The SLAP delegation included members from IDEAS, Bruins Against Sexual Harassment (BASH), Socialist Students at UCLA, the Student Workers’ Union (UAW Local 2865), and the Chicanx Studies Social Justice Caucus. The discussion revolved around the list of 15 demands which the SLAP coalition has developed to make UCLA a sanctuary campus, which are widely supported by UC’s labor unions and endorsed by a range of student groups.
Administrators claimed that the university was already revising policy to protect vulnerable faculty and students from ICE and other threats, but expressed an interest in discussing the 15 demands in preparation for a response.
SLAP developed its demands in direct response to the initial statements made by UC president Janet Napolitano and other officials. The delegation highlighted the narrow scope of the university’s concern, which focuses on students and scholars while ignoring the threats faced by campus workers. The 15 demands also highlighted important shortfalls and technical discrepancies in the administration’s initial attempts at revising policy.
In addition to addressing technical questions, the delegation highlighted the exclusion of workers’ voices from the newly formed Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Immigration. Students also raised concerns over the amount of police that have been deployed to student and worker demonstrations throughout the duration of the sanctuary campaign, and pointed out that if administrators are genuinely interested in protecting vulnerable communities they should not deploy the police in a way which discourages undocumented students and workers from attending public events or raising their voices. Finally, the SLAP delegation called on UCLA’s administration to make a bold and comprehensive sanctuary declaration which serves as an example for other student activists around the country by taking a defiant stance towards Trump’s policies.
Socialist Students at UCLA is committed to fighting in solidarity alongside undocumented students, workers, and other directly affected populations to win tangible policies which increase community safety, and therefore we welcome the opportunity to meet directly with administrators to discuss the #SanctuaryNow campaign. However, we remain skeptical that campus administrators will act to sufficiently protect vulnerable communities. Concessions and bold policies will be won only through student and worker struggle channeled into a well-organized pressure campaign.
Furthermore, not only do we see administrators as reluctant to pass firm protections, we know that administrators are scared of the political ramifications of passing policies that truly protect vulnerable Bruins. The most effective campus defense to right-wing attacks are powerful worker and student-worker unions; powerful unions can mobilize and form the core of grassroots resistance if ICE comes to UCLA to detain and deport members of the campus community. UCLA’s service workers union, AFSCME Local 3299, has already proven the worth of unions by including sanctuary policies within their current contract negotiation; their current contract expires in June, and they are threatening strike action if the UC does not pass policies to protect undocumented students and workers.
UC officials are simply not interested in having unions which challenge their authority, and we believe they will continue to use police and other assets to undermine union campaigns while claiming to support vulnerable communities.
Socialist Students calls for a continuation of the #SanctuaryNow escalation campaign with an emphasis on supporting the upcoming contract struggle of UC service workers organized in AFSCME Local 3299. Students and workers must unite to beat back Republican attacks, win sanctuary for all Bruins, and make UCLA a beacon to others fighting for #SanctuaryNow.
Originally published at SocialistStudents.net.