UAW 5810 rallies for Suresh Madheswaran in Jacobs Medical Center after UCSD withdraws original visa extension deal

UAW members gathered with Madheswaran after the meeting concluded. The lights above them were shut off.
UAW members gathered with Madheswaran after the meeting concluded. The lights above them were shut off.
Photo by Thomas Murphy/ UCSD Guardian

This article is an update in The UCSD Guardian’s coverage of UC San Diego’s treatment of Suresh Madheswaran, an international postdoctoral worker, and UAW Local 5810’s efforts to support international workers. For more details on this story, visit our website and view our video coverage on social media. 

On Jan. 26, UAW 2865 members rallied to hold an impromptu sit-in after UCSD Health HR abruptly struck down a deal between international postdoc Suresh Madheswaran and UCSD that would extend his work visa. The protest was held in a private section of the Jacobs Medical Center from 2:30 p.m. until 5:20 p.m. 

The deal consisted of UCSD offering Madheswaran either “a temporary position that would allow him to remain in the country,” or an unpaid 2-month temporary position. The agreement had been in the works for weeks and was planned to be finalized on Jan. 27. Though this deal was struck down, The UCSD Guardian confirmed that as of Feb. 6, UCSD reopened Madheswaran’s J1 visa, extending his grace period for one more month.

At 4:10 p.m. during the Jacobs Medical Center rally, Director of Labor Relations Dan Rawlins communicated to strikers that UCSD Health CEO Patty Maysent had agreed to meet with Madheswaran directly. UAW representative Srividya Ganapathy joined Madheswaran. 

During this meeting, UCSD firmly stated that the original deal was not going to proceed, contending that bringing Madheswaran on as an unpaid volunteer would set a precedent that they anticipated international postdoc workers would exploit. However, UCSD representatives clarified that they would hold Madheswaran’s visa until March 1. 

Photo by Thomas Murphy

Madheswaran and Ganapathy broke away from the negotiations to discuss options with the other UAW members sitting-in at Jacobs Medical Center. Under UCSD’s continued sponsorship of his J1 visa, Madheswaran could volunteer with any other organization or institution, such as City of Hope, another cancer research and treatment institution in San Diego. 

When they returned to the meeting, UCSD representatives stated that they would work with City of Hope or any other organization to secure Madheswaran a position elsewhere. However, Madheswaran remains unable to volunteer at UCSD, and this renewed deal does not offer him any long-term solutions. 

The sit-in continued throughout the negotiations. It occurred in an office space for hospital staff in Jacobs Medical Center, which falls under the hospital’s private space policies. This meant that no photos, videos, or other recordings could be taken, as stated by Hospital Policy (UCSDHP) 340.2.

During the protest, UCSD Medical Campus Security issued the strikers two warnings and threatened to call in the San Diego Police Department. All strikers who remained in the office were at risk of arrest.

Prior to negotiations, around 3:50 p.m., security engaged the ID lock on the office entrance, preventing re-entry by UAW members who briefly left the room and other members from joining.

By the conclusion of the strike, UAW members dispersed without any demands being met. As of Feb. 11, Madheswaran has been unable to secure a position. He is supported by UAW in his search. Madheswaran and the union have refrained from further comment until March 1 as they plan his next move. 

The UCSD Guardian will continue to update this story as it progresses.

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