UAW President Expertly Skewers Response to University Protests

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The president of the United Auto Workers union, Shawn Fain, on Wednesday condemned the brutal and excessive response to university student protest encampments across the country over the war in Gaza.

In a thread of posts to X (formerly Twitter), Fain criticized law enforcement actions against protesters and expressed support on behalf of the UAW for demonstrators.

“The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike, or speak out against injustice,” Fain said. “Our union has been calling for a ceasefire for six months. This war is wrong, and this response against students and academic workers, many of them UAW members, is wrong.”

“If you can’t take the outcry, stop supporting this war,” he added, in a stinging rebuke to politicians.

The UAW also represents student workers under its local 4811, which encompasses 48,000 academic student employees, graduate student researchers, academic researchers, and postdocs in the University of California system. The Gaza solidarity encampment on the University of California, Los Angeles campus was attacked by counterprotesters while police stood by.

Fain has not shied away from taking bold action since his election to head the UAW in March 2023. He led the union through a strike against the three largest American car companies last year and successfully negotiated a good deal for autoworkers, even ensuring electric vehicle battery workers would have union protection. He was not afraid to criticize Donald Trump and endorse Joe Biden in January, a key boost for Biden that earned Fain the ire of the belligerent former president. Most recently, the union won an unprecedented victory in Tennessee, successfully unionizing a Volkswagen plant.

Fain’s successful record means that the UAW’s support for a cease-fire in Gaza and those protesting for it cannot be discounted. The UAW under his leadership wields a lot of influence and has shown that its members know how to use it. Other politicians seeking the support of working people and younger voters, like those that the UAW represents, in the coming election would do well to follow their example.