Open Letter from U.S. Trade Unionists to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Boycott Apartheid Israel

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Labor for Palestine
Open Letter from U.S. Trade Unionists to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Boycott Apartheid Israel
December 4, 2009


“Sanctions alone cannot eradicate apartheid; that task is ultimately left to the people of South Africa themselves. But economic pressure and political isolation of the South African government can hasten the day when justice and freedom reign in that troubled land.”
–Richard L. Trumka, June 23, 1987

“We call on other workers and unions to . . . do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.” –Congress of South African Trade Unions, February 3, 2009

“We urge all international trade unions to heed the call of Palestinian civil society, including the trade union movement, by endorsing BDS. We further urge all trade unions and trade union federations to sever their links with the Histadrut, a Zionist organization that has always played a key role in perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of racial discrimination, and that has justified and applauded Israel’s war crimes in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.” –Palestinian Trade Union Movement Unanimously Confirms Support for BDS, November 25, 2009

——————-

Dear Brother Trumka:

As labor and anti-apartheid activists, we strongly disagree with your October 27 speech denouncing the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

The BDS campaign was initiated in 2005 by Palestinian civil society — including its entire labor movement. Inspired by the international boycott that helped topple apartheid South Africa, it demands Palestinian self-determination, including an end to Israeli military occupation, the right of refugees to return to the land from which they have been ethnically cleansed since the Nakba of 1947-1948, and equal rights for all throughout historic Palestine.

Support for BDS has grown rapidly, especially since December 27, 2008, when Israel broke a truce with the democratically-elected Palestinian government and attacked Gaza. In the resulting massacre, Israel killed more than 1400 Palestinians, hundreds of them children; maimed and wounded thousands more; and utterly devastated Gaza’s infrastructure, including the Gaza headquarters of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions.

In the best tradition of labor solidarity, South African and Australian dockworkers responded by refusing to handle Israeli cargo, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) “call[ed] on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.”

Their action echoes the West Coast dock-workers who refused to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934) or fascist Italy (1935); those in Denmark and Sweden (1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refused shipping for apartheid South Africa; those in Oakland who refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and those at all twenty-nine West Coast ports who held a May Day strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008).

Since Gaza, the 2005 BDS call also been endorsed or reaffirmed by numerous other labor bodies around the world, including the trades union congresses of Ireland, Scotland and the UK; UNISON (UK); Transport and General Workers’ Union (UK); L’Union syndicale Solidaires Industrie (France); Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario; six Norwegian trade unions; and Intersindical Alternativa de Catallunya.

It is no accident that South African workers play a leading role in the BDS movement. They remember that Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally. They agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s observation that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is “worse than apartheid.” They recognize that the Gaza massacre mirrors the infamous Sharpeville massacre of 1960, which gave birth to an international boycott against South African apartheid.

This rising tide of labor support for BDS has only been further vindicated by Israel’s rejection of the war crimes indictments issued against it by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN’s Goldstone Report and numerous other bodies — many of them Israeli.

The BDS campaign is particularly relevant to workers in the United States.

In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid to Israel was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be another $30 billion. As in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. aircraft, white phosphorous and bullets kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers, while both Democratic and Republican politicians condone the slaughter. Amidst deepening economic crisis, workers in this country pay a staggering human and financial price for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation throughout the region.

Despite all of this, however, many U.S. labor officials — often without the knowledge or con-sent of union members — have ignored Palestinian appeals for justice. Instead, they continue to collaborate with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation that not only supported Israel’s war on Gaza, but which has spearheaded — and whitewashed — racism, apartheid, dispossession and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians since the 1920s.

They have invested billions of our union pension funds and retirement plans in State of Israel Bonds. They have actively encouraged the U.S. to provide the money and weapons that oppress Palestinian workers, and to ensure Israel’s role as watchdog for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East.

The Jewish Labor Committee has exploited its carefully groomed “progressive” image by hurling false accusations of “anti-Semitism” against those who challenge racism in the U.S. labor movement, who support affirmative action for workers of color, who criticize notorious “AFL-CIA” support U.S. war and empire, and — above all — who oppose apartheid Israel.

Thus, it was the JLC that in July 2007 mobilized top AFL-CIO and Change to Win officials to condemn British union support for BDS. It is the JLC that seeks to deflect outrage over the Gaza massacres by launching Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine, whose stated purpose is to sabotage the BDS campaign, while demanding boycotts against Iran, which — unlike Israel — receives no U.S. aid and has no “weapons of mass destruction.”

In the 1980s, as president of the United Mine Workers, you rightly argued that, “economic pressure and political isolation of the South African government can hasten the day when justice and freedom reign in that troubled land.” Two decades later, the cause of “justice and freedom” for Palestinians requires no less of you as president of the AFL-CIO. As trade unionists, we must immediately and completely:

1. Divest from State of Israel Bonds.

2. Support workers’ refusal to handle Israeli cargo.

3. Break ties with the racist Histadrut.

4. Oppose U.S. military and economic aid for Israel.

Initial Signers
(List in formation — *For identification only – Sign on to letter)

Monadel Herzallah, President, Arab American Union Members Council, California

Larry Adams, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Former President, NPMHU L. 300*

Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Former President, UAW L. 2325/ALAA*; Al-Awda NY; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor

Brenda Stokely, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Former President, AFSCME DC 1707*; Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement

Sam Weinstein, Former President, UWUA L. 132*; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor

Stanley Heller, AFT L. 1547*, Delegate, CT Central Labor Council*

Marty Goodman, Former Executive Board Member, TWU L.100*

Frank Rosen, General Vice President (retired), UE*

Steve Zeltzer, Producer, Labor Video Project

Anthony Arnove, National Writers Union/UAW L.1981*

Mike Gimbel, Chair, Labor-Community Unity Committee, AFSCME DC 37 L. 375*; Delegate, NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO*

Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council*

Lee Sustar, Chicago Labor Against the War

Timothy Kaminski, UAW L. 110* (ret.)

Janice Rothstein, AFSCME L. 3299*

Andy Griggs, UTLA*; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee, Cafe Intifada

Emma Rosenthal, UTLA*; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee, Cafe Intifada

Pete Nowicki, AFSCME L. 145*

Jim Crampton, 1199SEIU/UHWE*

Allan Fisher, AFT L. 2121, SF Community College*

Sharon Black, AFT L. 2*; Bailout the People Movement

Bill Balderson, Oakland Education Assn.*

Sarah Ringler, AFT L. 1936, PVFT*

Frank Pinto, UPTE-CWA L. 9119*

Steve Desavouret, TCU/IAM 6608*

Louis LaFortune, AFT L. 1936, PVFT*

Azalia Torres, Former Executive Bd. Member, UAW Local 2325/ALAA*

Patrick Langhenry, UAW Local 2325/ALAA*

Lucy Herschel, Delegate 1199SEIU/UHWE*

Carol Seligman, South San Francisco California Teachers Association*

International Endorsers

Rubina Jamil, Working Women Organization; All Pakistan Trade Union Federation*

Tony Leon, Secretary General, Venezuelan Union of Oil Industry Workers*

Full List of Endorsers [updated March 7, 2010]
U.S. Labor Endorsers

Monadel Herzallah, President, Arab American Union Members Council, California
Larry Adams, Co-Convener, NYCLAW*; Former President, NPMHU Local 300
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, NYCLAW*, Former President, UAW Local 2325/ALAA; Al-Awda NY*; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor*
Brenda Stokely, Co-Convener, NYCLAW*, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement
Sam Weinstein, Former President, UWUA Local 132; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor*
Stanley Heller, AFT Local 1547, Delegate, CT Central Labor Council
Marty Goodman, Former Executive Board Member, TWU Local100
Frank Rosen, General Vice President (ret.), UE
Steve Zeltzer, Producer, Labor Video Project
Anthony Arnove, National Writers Union/UAW Local1981
Mike Gimbel, Chair, Labor-Community Unity Committee, AFSCME DC 37 Local 375; Delegate, NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
Lee Sustar, Chicago Labor Against the War*
Timothy Kaminski, UAW Local 110 (ret.)
Janice Rothstein, AFSCME Local 3299
Andy Griggs, UTLA; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee*; Cafe Intifada*
Emma Rosenthal, UTLA; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee*, Cafe Intifada*
Pete Nowicki, AFSCME Local 145
Jim Crampton, 1199SEIU/UHWE
Allan Fisher, AFT Local 2121, SF Community College
Sharon Black, AFT Local 2; Bailout the People Movement
Bill Balderson, Oakland Education Assn.
Sarah Ringler, AFT Local 1936, PVFT
Frank Pinto, UPTE-CWA Local 9119
Steve Desavouret, TCU/IAM 6608
Louis LaFortune, AFT Local 1936, PVFT
Azalia Torres, Former Executive Bd. Member, UAW Local 2325/ALAA
Patrick Langhenry, UAW Local 2325/ALAA
Lucy Herschel, Delegate 1199SEIU/UHWE
Carol Seligman, South San Francisco CTA
Manzar Foroohar, CFA
Joe Iosbaker, Executive Board, SEIU Local 73
David Klein, CFA
Mary Hughes, WGA, West
Barbara Harvey, Attorney, Labor and Employment Committee, National Lawyers Guild
Sherna Berger Gluck, Former Vice President, CFA-SEIU Local 1983
Sabina Virgo, Founding and Past President, AFSCME Local 2620
Shelia Cassidy, USW, Riverside, CA
Evalyn F. Segal, CSEA, SEIU Local 1000
Mark Kaswan, UAW Local 2865
Roger Dittmann, President, Scientists Without Borders; CFA-SEIU-AAUP
Larry Duncan, Co-Producer, Labor Beat Cable TV Series; CWA Local 14408
Andrew Berman, AFGE Local 375 (ret.)
Stephen Mahood, UAW Local 2322/Graduate Employees Organization
James Marc Leas, CWA Local 1601
Hester Eisenstein, Vice-Chair, Queens College Chapter, PSC-CUNY
Jerry Silberman, Organizer, PASNAP, AFL-CIO
Howard Lenow, Union Attorney, Lawyers Coordinating Committee, AFL-CIO
Bob McCubbin, CTA-NEA (ret.)
Nagesh Rao, AFT Local 2364
Anna Potempska, PEF
James Local Richardson, UDU
Tom Lacey, OPEIU, Local 3
Joseph Levine, Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA-NEA
John Levin, WGA, West
Rogers Turrentine, WGA
Dennis Kortheuer, CFA
Leslie Feinberg, NWU, UAW Local 1981
Noha Arafa, ALAA/UAW Local 2325
Michael Yates, United Association for Labor Education
Mike Prokosch, IUPAT, DC 35
Wendy Thompson, Former President, UAW Local 235
Mary Lou Finley, San Diego Para Chapter Secretary, CSEA, AFL-CIO
Sam Blan, SAG
Jeffrey Klein, President (ret.), NAGE/SEIU Local R1-168
Fred Hirsch, Executive Board, Plumbers and Fitters Local 393
Gaby Forrell, AFM, New York, NY
Michel Lyon, AFSCME Local 3299
Sheila Hoyt, BTU
Steve Early, NWU/UAW Local 1981
Gabriel Camacho, UNITE HERE Local 66L
Edie Pistolesi, CFA
Erin Breault, PFT
Donna Blythe-Shaw, Staff Representative, USW, Dorchester, MA
Joe Balkis, Steward, IBT, Calumet City, IL
Robert McCauley, Organizer, NUHW
John J. McColgan, USW Local 9158
Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary, AFT Local 1493, San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers
Andre Powell, Delegate, Baltimore Metro Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Leila Kawar, GSOC/UAW Local 2110 NYU, AFL-CIO
Mary Sully, IUE-CWA Local 201 (ret.), McAllen, TX
Saladin Muhammad, International Representative (ret.), UE
Ann Pett, UTLA, NEA, Valley Village, CA
Deborah Rosenstein, Labor Educator, University of Minnesota Labor Education Service
Keith Rosenthal, AFSCME Local 3650
Patrick Finn, UUP/SUNY Buffalo
Daniel Bosch, Twin Cities GMB, IWW
Chelsea Earles, Hear Our Public Employees Coalition (HOPE), Durham, NC
Joseph Agonito, AFT Local 1845
Scott D. Egan, IWW, Tucson, AZ
Brian Kelly, IBC Local 33, Boston (formerly); IUMSWA L25
Thomas F. Barton, AFSCME DC 37, Local 768
Dick Wood, CSEA, Sacramento, CA
Keith Sadler, UAW Local 12
Peter Rachleff, United Association of Labor Educators/CWA, Saint Paul, MN
John Wheat Gibson, Sr., National Lawyers Guild; former member, LIUNA, AFL-CIO, Dallas, Tx
Shelley Ettinger, AFT Local 3882, New York, NY
Elizabeth J. Hauser, North Thurston Education Association, Olympia, WA
Nathaniel Miller, IWW International Solidarity, Philadelphia, PA
Evalyn F. Segal, CSEA, Walnut Creek, CA
Martha Grevatt, Chair, Civil and Human Rights Committee, UAW Local 122, Cleveland, OH
Edward Childs, Chief-Steward, UNITE HERE Local 26, Somerville, MA
Bill Zoda, PASNAP, Philadelphia, PA
Eric Robson, Steward, AFSCME Local 171, Madison, WI
Jim Holstun, Chapter Board Member, UUP Buffalo Center, NYSUT, AFT, Buffalo, NY
Rebecca Anshell-Song, San Diego Education Association
Emmanuel Lopez, UNITE HERE Local 355, Margate, FL
Donald Dinelli, Retired Educator, NEA-CTA-OEA, Oakland, CA
Bill Bachmann, APWU Local 10, New York, NY
Mark D. Stansbery, CWA Local 4502, Columbus, OH
Carl Gentile, National Representative, AFGE, Frederick, MD
Bill Preston, Acting President, AFGE Local 17, Washington, DC
David Stein, former rank and file organizer, UNITE HERE, Los Angeles, CA
Nancy Snyder, Recording Secretary Emeritus, SEIU Local 790, San Francisco, CA
Simona Sharoni, Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies, UUP, SUNY, Plattsburgh, NY
Don DeBar, Unpaid Staff Organizing Committee WBAI-FM, Ossining, NY
George dePue, former organizer, District 65/UAW, Baltimore, MD
Ivy R. Nightscales Williams, SEIU Local 775NW, Seattle, WA
Ziyad Zaitoun, IFPTE Local 17, Seattle, WA
Frank Couget, NALC Branch 36, New York, NY
James Jordan, Campaign for Labor Rights National Coordinator, NWU, Tucson, AZ
Frances Taylor, CWA, San Francisco, CA
Larry Duncan, CWA Local 14408, Chicago, IL
Moses Seenarine, CTA, Anaheim, CA

International Endorsers

Rubina Jamil, Working Women Organization; All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
Tony Leon, Secretary General, Venezuelan Union of Oil Industry Workers
Amir M. Maasoumi, Federation des travailleurs du Quebec (FTQ)
B. Ross Ashley, Retired Shop Steward, SEIU Local 1, Canada
Boudemi Abdellah, Federation Generale du Travail Belgium
Christina Rousseau, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903
Faiz Ahmed, Secretary, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Direct Chartered Local 60550, Union of Graduate Student Workers
Hanna Braun, National Union of Teachers (ret.), London, UK
John M. Darlling, International Typographical Union (ret.), Toronto, Ontario
Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union New Zealand
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Life Member, National Union of Journalists (UK), member, National Union of Teachers Waltham Forest Branch
Peter Brogan, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903
Kelvin Bland, Royal Institute of British ArchitectsTheresa Peters, National Union of Teachers, London, UK
Orsan Senalp, Labour activist, FNV-Bondgenoten, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Zarina Bhatia, Retired, GMB, Birmingham, UK
Anne Key, Unison, Cumbria, UK
Paul Harris, APHEDA Member, Melbourne, AU
Steve Stephens, cjpp, Sydney, AU
Wayne Knight, NSW Teachers Federation member, Sydney, AU
Yvette Van Hauwe, ACV, Brussels, Belgium
Tyler Shipley, Former Executive, CUPE Local 3903, Toronto, ON
Sabah Al-Mukhtar, Arab Lawyer Association, London UK
Susan Stout, CAW retired, Vancouver, BC

Organizational Endorsers

BDS National Committee, Palestine
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Glossary

AAUP. American Association of University Professors
AFGE. American Federation of Government Employees
AFM. American Federation of Musicians
AFSCME. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
AFT. American Federation of Teachers
ALAA. Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325
APWU. American Postal Workers Union
BTU. Boston Teachers Union
CFA. California Faculty Association
CSEA. California State Employees Association
CTA. California Teachers Association
CWA. Communication Workers of America
GSOC. Graduate Student Organizing Committee
IAM. International Association of Machinists
IBT. International Brotherhood of Teamsters
IFPTE. International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
IUE. International Union of Electronic Workers
IUPAT. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
IUMSWA. Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America
IWW. Industrial Workers of the World
LIUNA. Laborers’ International Union of North America
MTA. Massachusetts Teachers Association
NAGE. National Association of Government Employees
NALC. National Association of Letter Carriers
NEA. National Education Association
NPMHU. National Postal Mail Handlers Union
NUHW. National Union of Healthcare Workers
NWU. National Writers Union
NYCLAW. New York City Labor Against the War
NYSUT. New York State United Teachers
OPEIU. Office and Professional Employees International Union
PASNAP. Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals
PEF. Public Employees Federation
PFT. Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
PFVT. Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers
PSC-CUNY. Professional Staff Congress
SAG. Screen Actors Guild
SEIU. Service Employees International Union
TCU. Transportation Communications International Union
TWU. Transport Workers Union
UAW. United Auto Workers
UDU. United Domestic Workers Homecare Providers Union, AFSCME
UE. United Electrical Workers
UHWE. United Health Care Workers East
UPTE. University Professional and Technical Employees
USW. United Steel Workers
UTLA. United Teachers of Los Angeles
UUP. United University Professions
UWUA. Utility Workers Union of America
WGA. Writers Guild of America

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