An Orange County judge on Friday ordered the union representing University of California academic workers to halt its strike at six campuses, ruling the walkout appeared to be causing "damage to students' education" during the critical end of the term quarter when finals are taken.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Randall J. Sherman said the University of California had made its case for a temporary restraining order to stop the strike, which the university contended was causing "irreparable harm" to students and university operations.

The next hearing on the case was scheduled for June 27, which could effectively end the walkout that was approved by union membership through June 30. Sherman alluded to that fact at the end of a roughly hourlong hearing, telling both sides to notify the court if "the strike will expire on its own terms."

Sherman's decision does not resolve the long-term question of whether the strike is an illegal breach of a "no strike" contract clause, the allegation at the center of UC's lawsuit filed against the union that represents 48,000 academic workers at 10 campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

UC officials celebrated the decision.

"We are extremely grateful for a pause in this strike so our students can complete their academic studies. The strike would have caused irreversible setbacks to students' academic achievements and may have stalled critical research projects in the final quarter," said Melissa Matella, UC associate vice president for systemwide labor relations, in a statement.

UC officials had previously twice failed before the state Public Employment Relations Board to halt the United Auto Workers Local 4811 union strike that kicked off nearly three weeks ago at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Union President Rafael Jaime, a doctoral student in literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, alluded to those losses by the university system in a statement Friday, saying workers were "ready for a long fight."

"UC academic workers are facing down an attack on our whole movement," Jaime said. "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."

UC's lawsuit claimed the union strike over alleged violations to workers' free speech rights during pro-Palestinian protests breached "no strike" contract clauses. The university argued in court documents that the strike is causing "irreparable harm" to operations, including cancellations to classes.

UC also contends the strike is about politics, not terms of employment and issues related to labor.

UC's decision to go to state court was described as a "brazen" move by a University of California, Irvine professor of employment and labor law who suggested the university may have sued in Orange County because judges there have been friendlier to employers in labor disputes.

"It's not that they clearly do not have the authority to go to Superior Court," said Veena Dubal, the professor. "That is a legal issue for the court to decide. But it is pretty brazen because they are going simply because they did not like the outcome at PERB, which is the agency charged with actually dealing with these issues."

The union maintains its strike is legal and unrelated to its contracts because the walkout is over broad worker rights it alleges were violated during university actions against pro-Palestinian protesters, including arrests and academic discipline that has prevented some workers from access to university-owned housing.

The union represents graduate teaching assistants, researchers and other academic workers who lead discussion groups, grade papers, conduct research and administer exams, among other responsibilities. It authorized the strikes last month, alleging its members' free speech rights were harmed during crackdowns on pro-Palestinian protests at UCLA, the University of California, San Diego and the UC Irvine, as well as charges. It also cited harm to workers who participated in a UCLA encampment that a mob attacked for several hours on April 30 without police intervention.

The union filed unfair labor practice charges with PERB over those accusations. UC has filed its own charges with the board, contending the strike is illegal.

The labor board denied two UC injunction requests, ruling the university did not meet the legal threshold for it to stop the walkout while mediation over both sides' charges continued over the long term.

UC officials, as well as the union, have declined to state exactly how many classes, discussion groups or other work led by union members have been affected by the strike across campuses.

The labor board had also requested to be a party to the Orange County case, arguing that it has "exclusive initial jurisdiction over aspects of this dispute." The judge on Friday denied the board's expedited request to join the case but said it could file the motion again on a normal court schedule.

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