New York University graduate students said their union’s parent local improperly disqualified candidates for union offices, many of whom support an ongoing “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” referendum regarding Israel.
The vote committee of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee said in a letter that the parent union, United Auto Workers Local 2110, gave “confusing and contradictory claims” about eligibility for office and disqualified several candidates without notice. The union then declared “certain candidates elected by acclamation … without our review and approval,” the letter says.
The candidates were seeking positions with the union’s assembly of stewards and its joint council of delegates.
“Nominations were last week, and nominations closed on Friday at 5 [p.m.],” votes committee member Chris Nickell said.
“Friday at 9 p.m., 1,300 to 1,400 [members] got an email [from the local] that a number of people had been elected by acclamation,” he said.
“We were dumbfounded,” he said.
Nickell said that GSOC has delayed planned elections until Wednesday and Thursday in order to discuss the situation with the local. The BDS vote began Tuesday at noon and will continue through Thursday, as planned.
Nickel said that Local 2110 has not yet responded to the letter.
In response to a query from POLITICO New York, local president Maida Rosenstein promised to call back.
Members of GSOC’s BDS caucus suspect that Local 2110 may have deliberately disqualified members known to back BDS in favor of anti-BDS members.
“Ten of the 14 members were known proponents of the BDS referendum,” said Sean Larson, a graduate student. “Several people who were just installed were members of the Zionist caucus.”
“I’m not saying this for sure was an anti-BDS coup, but it definitely disproportionately affected BDS supporters,” he said.
“Yes, on face value, the Local disqualified more pro-BDS than anti-BDS candidates, but they also ‘accepted’ more pro-BDS than anti-BDS candidates, because there were twice as many pro-BDS candidates as there were anti-BDS candidates,” said caucus member Sam Zerin in an email. “BDS is tearing apart our membership. It is distracting our elected representatives from pursuing the essential job-related issues that brought our union into being.”
“Here’s what I think: I think there is widespread suppression of the BDS movement,” Maya Wind, a doctoral student and BDS supporter, said. “I don’t think it’s coincidental.”
Larson and Wind pointed to California, where the UAW International “nullified” a BDS vote by University of California graduate student unions.
Both said that hostility to BDS by the UAW could dissuade graduate students from joining the union. Local 2110 is also organizing graduate students at Columbia University, The New School, and other universities.