Monthly Archives: May 2016

LFP Bulletin: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution

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Screenshot 2016-05-28 11.05.17View in PDF format: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution

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Contents:

May 27, 2016
Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution
— and more, from Labor for Palestine
Please forward widely!

Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865,GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification
Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals.
Click here to read full statement
Like UAW 2865 BDS on Facebook
Like GEO-UAW 2322 BDS on Facebook
Like GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS on Facebook

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)
“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”
Click here to read full article

Click below to like and share this online poster:

Like TAA/AFT Local 3220 on Facebook

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”
Click here to read full article

Resource: Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly)
Notable challenges to this dominant Labor Zionism began in the late 1960s. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1969 and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. Since September 11, 2001, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), Labor for Palestine, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and others. Increasingly, such efforts have made common cause with racial justice and other movements, and—at the margins—have begun to crack Labor Zionism’s seemingly impregnable hold in the United States.
Click here to read full article
Like Labor for Palestine on Facebook
Visit Labor for Palestine Online
Get information, invite speaker, start a chapter
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Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

Screenshot 2016-05-27 09.03.37For Immediate Release
May 26, 2016

Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine:
Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

UAW 2865 BDS Caucus Press Contact: uaw2865bds@gmail.com
GEO-UAW 2322 Palestine Solidarity Caucus Contact: anna.waltman@gmail.com
GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS Caucus Contact: gsocmembersforbds@gmail.com

Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals. The UAW’s Public Relations Board (PRB) is the latest body to attempt to quell labor solidarity with Palestinians by affirming the UAW International Executive Board’s (IEB) nullification of Local 2865’s majority member vote to support BDS.

UAW Local 2865, which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, voted in December 2014 to support BDS with 65% of voting members in favor. The vote saw unusually high turnout, greater than that of a recent contract ratification vote. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International Executive Board struck down the BDS resolution, despite affirming the democratic integrity of the vote. This week, the UAW PRB, a body charged with reviewing decisions of the Executive Board on appeal, affirmed the nullification.

The PRB’s decision to uphold nullification of the BDS vote is based solely on a thread of antidemocratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts. They posit that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate within the IEB, let alone the membership – the International Union now holds a position against BDS and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position. The PRB ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW IEB to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses. Because the original BDS vote thereby recognized the authority of the IEB, the PRB decision represents an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW.

Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam, a rank and file member, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. The PRB’s decision tells us that the President of UAW in 2007 had a different view. Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International Union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS, but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

A growing number of graduate student worker organizations have endorsed BDS. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing over 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel. Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, voted overwhelmingly in favor (81%) of adopting a BDS resolution.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession, and apartheid. Despite the attempts of top-down International Union officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank-and-file support is against them. We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom, and equality.” – Joe Keady, GEO/UAW2322 rank & file member

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS

randi_weingarten
Union bosses, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, are increasingly finding their pro-Israel positions challenged by the rank and file. (AFGE)

Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month became the latest unionized workers in the US to vote in favor of a resolution supporting the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Meanwhile a United Auto Workers review board upheld a decision by the union’s national executive to nullify a democratic vote backing BDS by rank and file members in California.

In the Wisconsin ballot, 81 percent of voting members in the 9,000-strong Teaching Assistants’ Association backed a resolution calling for divestment from Israeli state institutions and international firms complicit in Israeli military occupation and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.

The resolution passed by members of TAA/AFT Local 3220 calls on the University of Wisconsin, its parent union the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO national labor federation to divest.

The TAA Palestine Solidarity Caucus notes in a press release that deteriorating working conditions for educators in the US “are directly related to the rise of spending on militarism and the consequential disinvestment from public universities and the public sector as a whole.”

The union also takes aim at widespread efforts to demonize and criminalize BDS activism, including within the trade union movement where support for Palestinian rights is growing.

Challenge

TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States.

Its vote represents a challenge to the leadership of its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), whose executives have strongly opposed BDS.

As The Electronic Intifada reported last year, AFT President Randi Weingarten has tried to smear BDS by association with violence and terrorism.

Weingarten and other top union officials have used their positions to promote Zionism, albeit in its liberal form, the Israeli state ideology that denies Palestinians their basic rights.

They have also helped Israel whitewash its 2014 assault on Gaza that killed approximately 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children.

AFT leaders have endorsed Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election despite the presumed Democratic nominee’s hawkish support for Israel and justifications of its killings of Palestinians.

Yet the TAA vote is another marker of a shift among rank and file union members.

Last month, graduate student workers at New York University voted to back BDS by a large margin.

Their local union, GSOC-UAW 2110, held a vote despite efforts by executives from the parent union to block a referendum and cancel an election.

A week earlier, the Graduate Employee Organization of UAW Local 2322 (GEO-UAW 2322) adopted a BDS resolution with 95 percent of the votes.

That union represents more than 2,000 graduate student workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Overturning democracy

In 2014, UAW Local 2865, which currently represents 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, became the first US union to join the BDS movement in a landslide vote.

But executives at the parent union, the United Auto Workers, nullified the vote last December.

In a decision issued on 16 May, the UAW’s Public Review Board (PRB) rejected an appeal against the nullification.

The 27-page ruling “to uphold nullification of the BDS vote … is based solely on a thread of anti-democratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts,” the solidarity caucuses of UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322 and GSOC-UAW 2110 said in a joint statement.

According to the statement, “[the review board posits] that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate among the [International Executive Board], let alone the membership – the international union now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position.”

“The [Public Review Board] ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW [International Executive Board] to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses,” the solidarity caucuses state.

The nullification of the vote represents “an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW,” they add.

A leading Israel lobby group has welcomed the UAW’s decision to overturn a democratic vote.

“We applaud the Public Review Board for declaring that UAW Local 2865 had no authority to subvert the UAW International’s position opposing the BDS movement,” Dean Schramm, the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles regional president, said.

Schramm accused union members of promoting “polarizing political propaganda and misinformation promoted by the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

In contrast to its opposition to the struggle for Palestinian rights, the UAW strongly supported divestment from apartheid South Africa. In 1978, the union withdrew all its money from banks that made loans there.

It also pulled pension fund investments from firms complicit in human rights abuses in South Africa.

Sea change

The decision to nullify the vote came after UCLA graduate student Stephen Brumbaugh and other members of a small anti-BDS group called Informed Grads filed a complaint.

Informed Grads were represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an elite law firm with a long record of defending corporate clients, including such union-busting and environment-polluting firms as Chevron and Walmart.

Liz Jackson, an attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS; but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top.”

“This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion,” Jackson added.

That sea change is already happening. As a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found, the base of the Democratic Party is increasingly sympathetic to Palestinian rights, opening up an ever wider gap with establishment leaders like Hillary Clinton.

The support for Palestinian rights is growing most rapidly among Millennials – people born after 1980.

Similar cracks are now starting to show in the trade union movement as well.

“This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers,” Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam said, adding that thousands of union members disagree with the position on BDS stated by the UAW president almost a decade ago.

Union leaders “cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS,” Mogannam added.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession and apartheid,” said Joe Keady, a rank and file member of GEO-UAW 2322.

“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)

Update1Huffington Post

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be?

05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET

On May 25 the New York Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman with the incendiary title, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine,” which attempts to show just how far the Israeli Prime Minister has gone to destroy any notion of a two-state solution. That Friedman would have only now caught on to the demise of such a possibility should indicate just how far out of touch he is.

Friedman spends his space talking about Netanyahu’s purging of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, and his naming of “far-right Avigdor Lieberman” as his Yaalon’s replacement. But he begins his piece with this entrée: “Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the ‘boycott, divestment, sanctions’ (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.”

Friedman seems to take always alluding in some way or another to BDS as an obligation. Not only does he do so with remarkable consistency, he also always gets it wrong. More than two years ago, Mondoweiss succinctly captured Friedman’s modus operanti: “Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions.”

Yes, Friedman persistently misattributes the origins of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, (BDS) which in 2005 emanated not from U.S. college campuses as he suggests, but rather from Palestinian civil society, with over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements joining together to fight for Palestinian rights. Talk about obfuscation.

Besides purposefully erasing the origins of BDS, Friedman constantly ignores its reach. Well beyond the borders of U.S. college campuses, churches, unions, artists, writers, musicians and others, from around the world, have either explicitly endorsed BDS or taken on one or another of its tactics. And they are doing so in increasing numbers.

In April the Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; in May the United Methodist Church passed three measures criticizing Israel and advocating for Palestinian rights; in January that same church put five Israeli banks on a blacklist, declaring that the church would do no business with banks involved in the Occupation; previously in 2014 the United Presbyterian Church voted to divest from companies doing business on the West Bank.

In terms of labor unions, Vijay Prashad notes,

a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UE—decided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.”

Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”

Artists and musicians such as Junot Diaz, Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Chuck D, Boots Riley, and others have come out in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in Augist 2015 over a thousand Black artists and activists signed on. As I reported then:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

Commenting on Friedman’s latest, Mondoweiss again has it just right:

Friedman’s smear is obviously the establishment litmus test these days. Hillary Clinton says BDS is bad. So does President Obama, so does the French prime minister. But that will soon change. As Israel sinks further into its existential identity crisis, the few remaining liberals among the Jewish elites there will turn desperately to the world to pressure Israel, as Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner have already done. That pressure means boycott, divestment and sanctions. And if it also means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that prospect will by then no longer be tragic to realistic Americans, including Friedman, who have glimpsed the paranoid Sparta that the Jewish democracy has produced.

One can only wonder how long Thomas Friedman can staunchly keep on with his delusional lies about BDS.

Union officials suppress member support for BDS (Palestine Legal)

Palestine Legal

Union officials suppress member support for BDS

May 25, 2016
UAW
CREDIT: CLYDE ROBINSON

As a growing number of local unions endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) Public Review Board last week affirmed a decision to nullify the BDS resolution adopted by members of Local 2865.

UAW Local 2865 – which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California (UC) – voted by an overwhelming majority in December, 2014 to demand that their union and their employer, the UC, divest from companies complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International UAW, which oversees Local 2865, nullified the vote – despite its own finding that the local conducted a fair and democratic election. The local union appealed, and last week, the union’s Public Review Board affirmed the nullification.

The new decision reasons that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007, UAW now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate membership groups cannot assert a different position. But this reasoning ignores the fact that the 2007 statement was signed without any record of discussion among the Executive Board, much less any debate among the UAW’s membership.

Rank and file member of Local 2865, Jennifer Mogannam, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. … Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal staff attorney, commented, “The nullification reflects the national trend of suppression. People are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS. But when higher officials disagree – like state legislators, university administrators, and presidential candidates – they resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but attempts to suppress speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

Popular support for BDS is growing as three more graduate student worker organizations adopted resolutions this spring. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel.

Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, also voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a BDS resolution.

UW-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board Defends Union’s Democratic Process (TAA/AFT Local 3220)

TAA LogoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:
TAA – Executive Board
taa@taa-madison.org

UW-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board Defends Union’s Democratic Process

Madison, WI (May 25, 2016): In the wake of recent reactions to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association’s (TAA) vote in favor of a resolution to endorse the Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the TAA Executive board wishes to respond in utmost defense of the democratic, open voting process by which our union came to its decision.

From September 2015 to May 2016, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus (PSC), an independent caucus of members formed within the parameters of the TAA constitution, had presented information at General Membership Meetings, hosted discussion forums, and sought feedback from other members on the endorsement of BDS. Information about BDS and the PSC’s proposed resolution were shared widely via membership emails and on social media. In April, attendees at a General Membership Meeting voted unanimously to place the resolution on an electronic ballot as part of annual TAA officer elections, so as to ensure the largest possible participation of membership. (In contrast, most decisions about endorsements and sponsorships are made directly by members in attendance at the General Membership Meetings, which historically have lower turnout than the number who participate in officer elections.) Prior to this final vote, the PSC held two separate town hall meetings for members to discuss and voice any concerns over the resolutions. In addition, the PSC independently organized office visits to TAA members to make sure they were aware of the vote. In the final tally, 81% of voting members supported the BDS resolution.

We encourage all interested parties to read the specific text of the resolution. The resolution calls specifically for the AFL-CIO (our parent union to which we pay fees) and University of Wisconsin System to divest from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights. Above all, we wish to make clear that we are first and foremost accountable to our membership. It is our responsibility to make sure our members feel heard and supported within our union. It is also incumbent upon us to uphold the constitution and follow our procedures that ensure a democratic process. It is neither our right nor our responsibility, however, to interfere with the wishes and activities of our membership. The union speaks through the actions of the membership, actions that we are constitutionally bound to uphold and defend.

As leaders of the TAA we will not tolerate any forms of intimidation or retaliation against any of our members. We also recognize that our Jewish members may be feeling the most acute pressures at this time, regardless of where they stand on this issue. It is therefore our priority that the climate of our union and on our campus is one of respect, healthy debate, and care for each other. We will continue to hold spaces for discussion around this issue in which all members are invited and encouraged to participate.

The TAA has a long history of acting in solidarity with other movements beyond the labor issues of UW campus. It is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States and advocates for a university that is fair to all—including students, workers, and their families. Graduate student workers perform nearly half of all the instruction that takes place at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, while also taking classes and conducting research. The university works because we do.

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Poster: Salute to the UW-Madison graduate student workers of TAA/AFT Local 3220 for respecting the BDS picket line for Palestinian Rights!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Madison Grad Students Are First AFT Local to Adopt BDS! — and more from Labor for Palestine

Update1View in PDF format: LFP Update 4


EXTRA! EXTRA!
Madison Grad Students Are First AFT Local to Adopt BDS!
— and more from Labor for Palestine
May 19, 2016

UW-Madison Union of Graduate Student Workers (TAA) Endorses BDS Movement
“At a time when Israel is limiting free speech and the principles of democracy by policing and limiting the movement of BDS supporters within the West Bank and Israel and criminalizing advocacy for BDS, U.S. states are introducing resolutions that make engaging in the non-violent strategy of BDS illegal, and parent unions are voiding democratic votes that called for BDS, the TAA still strongly believes in the difficult practice of democracy. It is only by valuing and creating platforms for all ideas and opinions that the labor movement will be strong.”

Click here to read full press release and resolution text.

 


“We must counter Israel’s McCarthyism”: Meet the Palestinian intellectual Israel fears most (Salon)
‘That is a profound moral obligation: to counter Israel’s induced McCarthyism and to fight together against all forms of injustice, including racial, economic, social, and other forms of injustice. We’ve got to stick together because they are sticking together, our enemies: large corporations, the military, security, industries, and the oil companies – they’re sticking together. They know their interests and so do we. It’s time we worked together.’

Click here to read full article

 


Sat., May 21, 2016 NYC — Labor for Palestine at the Left Forum: 
Confronting Racism, Zionism & Injustice on the BDS Picket Line
How growing U.S. labor solidarity with Palestine is helping to rebuild a democratic, militant, anti-racist, effective workers’ movement — at home and abroad.

Click here to RSVP and for full text.


Save the Date: Fri., July 15 NYC
The 2016 U.S. prison, labor, and academic delegation to Palestine presents
Imprisoned Resistance: Politics of Incarceration in Palestine & the U.S.

Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Ctr.
3940 Broadway, NYC (at 165th St.)
Sponsors include Labor for Palestine

Speakers
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Laura Whitehorn
Rabab Abdulhadi
Nancy Mansour
Johanna Fernandez
Susie Day
Nyle Fort
Jamie Veve
Rep. From Samidoun

Click here to RSVP.


Resource: Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
19-page color, download in PDF format: LFP Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.

Contents:

Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (December 2015)
Labor for Palestine Founding Statement (December 4, 2004)
Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)
Stop the War on Gaza: No Arms for Apartheid Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions! (July 28, 2014)
Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS): Statement of Principles & Call for International Trade Union Support for BDS (May 4, 2011)
Briefing: The Jewish Labor Committee and Apartheid Israel (April 13, 2010)
The Histadrut: Its History and Role in Occupation, Colonisation and Apartheid (October 11, 2012)
Briefing: Labor Zionism and the Histadrut (September 1, 2011)
Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA (Maan, March 11, 2016)
UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine (March 14, 2016)

Contact Labor for Palestine
Like Labor for Palestine on Facebook
Donate to Labor for Palestine

354 European human rights organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties call on the EU to support their right to boycott (Mondoweiss)

Mondoweiss

354 European human rights organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties call on the EU to support their right to boycott

on  

More than 300 human rights and aid organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties from across Europe have called on the EU to uphold its legal responsibilities and hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to defend the right of individuals and institutions to take part in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for justice and equality.

Signatories to the letter called on the EU commission to “introduce the human rights guidelines guaranteeing freedom of speech and right to boycott and to use all other means you have in your disposal to support European citizens in their struggle to uphold basic human rights.”

Having failed to stop the growth of the BDS movement movement, Israel has launched an unprecedented attack against the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.

The 354 strong list of signatories includes: Transform! Europe – a european network of 28 European organizations from 19 countries, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, The Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions, Parti de Gauche in France, Podemos in Spain, Norwegian Church Aid, the Flemish branch of Oxfam in Belgium, major Belgian NGO coalition CNCD 11.11.11, Defence for Children in Belgium, Greenpeace in Germany, the international catholic peace movement Pax Christi International in Belgium and major French Catholic NGO Terre Solidaire. See here for letter and full list of signatories.

At Israel’s request, European governments including the UK and France are introducing anti-democratic legislation and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. In France, one activist was arrested simply for wearing a BDS t-shirt.

The EU envoy to Israel was criticised recently for participating in an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem at which Israeli government ministers threatened BDS activists.

Israel has also imposed an effective travel ban on BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti, following thinly-veiled threats of physical violence against him by Israeli government ministers that prompted Amnesty International to express concern “for the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti”.

Israeli state repression against human rights defenders and the BDS movement is designed to shield it from being held accountable for its violations of international law. Israel has openly boasted that it is spying on international BDS activists.

Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns Officer for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement, said:

“Rather than helping Israel to repress the BDS movement, it is time for the EU to meet its obligations under international law and hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. The EU must uphold the right of European, Palestinian and Israeli citizens to uphold human rights and take part in the nonviolent BDS movement.”

Aneta Jerska, the coordinator of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), one of the organisations that has signed the statement, said:

“It is empowering to see so many European civil society organisations and representative bodies publicly declaring their support for the right to participate in the BDS movement that aims to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and human rights.

“This is a powerful sign that European public opinion is increasingly viewing BDS as an act of free speech. We will continue to fight to bring an end to Israel’s unjust system of oppression over the Palestinian people.”

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/european-organisations-political/#sthash.L0pQsaB2.dpuf

Gaza laborers suffer few rights, little pay (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Gaza laborers suffer few rights, little pay

Gaza Workers
Gaza construction workers can barely scrape by after nearly a decade of Israeli blockade.

Ashraf AmraAPA images

Hani Abu Talal is a man on a mission.

The 34-year-old laborer spends his days pounding the streets of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip for any new construction projects to which he might lend his body and time.

His is the lot of a day laborer. His luck lies in the hands of the rare on-site foreman with something to offer. His mission is near impossible. This is Gaza: it has the world’s highest unemployment rate.

“Landing a job happens only once in a blue moon,” Abu Talal said. “I just look for any chance to get some work and make some money.”

The odd day’s work also does not guarantee respite from grinding poverty. A father of five, Abu Talal says he is lucky if a full day’s hard physical labor earns him more than 30 shekels (just under $8).

“Construction is hard work,” Abu Talal told The Electronic Intifada. “But instead of being fairly paid, we are blackmailed; we are told that wages cannot be higher because of the lack of stability in the local economy.”

From time to time, Israel allows through a shipment of construction materials, causing a mini-spike in activity. But the wages remain the same, and Abu Talal worries that should a situation ever arise where construction enjoys a sustained boom, employers will simply keep wages low.

“If any worker dares to ask for an increase, he can be fired. So we continue to work without complaint. But that does not mean to leave us alone. We have rights. We need them respected.”

Wages besieged

What few shekels Abu Talal makes at the end of a day are barely sufficient to pay the owner of his local grocery store from where his family get their essentials. As for the future? There are no savings. There is only constant, nagging fear, he said, that one of his children should one day need urgent medical care.

Awad Baker is a contractor and one of those from whom Abu Talal would seek work. Most of his construction projects are in the central Gaza Strip, the same area where Abu Talal ekes out his living. He lays the blame for low wages and the lack of job opportunities squarely on the economic blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007.

“We have sustained so many losses due to the siege that we are all heavily in debt,” Baker told The Electronic Intifada. “These have to be repaid.”

Where construction materials are rare, they become more expensive. The balance is borne by labor. Contractors rely heavily on cheap, unskilled labor, which in turn affects quality. And the longer that continues, the less skilled the workers, said Baker.

After nearly 10 years under siege, Baker added, “our workers’ skills have plummeted to the extent that it affects the quality of our work. Our sector is devastated.”

The combination of the blockade and successive Israeli military assaults saw construction output in 2014, year of the last major Israeli offensive, fall by a staggering 83 percent, according to the World Bank.

Government failures

Economist Maher al-Tabaa, head of Gaza’s Chamber of Commerce, put it in stark terms: “When we have a very restricted number of jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers, wages decrease. The blockade has denied the local economy access to many jobs and options are limited for our workers.”

With this oversupply of labor, al-Tabaa said, workers are more likely to accept work that doesn’t pay a fair wage.

But Sami al-Amasi, head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Gaza, says the siege is not the only factor responsible for the desperate situation of local workers.

He also fingered the policies of the now defunct Palestinian unity government which, he said, early in its tenure in 2014, canceled training and employment programs that could have helped people back to work.

The unity government was formed after an agreement between Hamas and Fatah in June 2014, but was beset by mutual suspicions from the start. A year later, it resigned, and since then Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, has twice unilaterally reshuffled the cabinet. Though Hamas rejected both reshuffles, the government is still called a consensus government.

Temporary employment and professional training programs had in the past helped mitigate the unemployment crisis, al-Amasi said, and were intended to serve workers in all sectors, including construction.

Their cancellation, he said, marked not only a failure of policy — which continues under the present Palestinian Authority administration — but also showed a “disregard” for Gaza and its population.

Al-Amasi also said there had been a failure to implement existing laws on workers’ rights, citing legislation for a minimum monthly wage of 1,450 shekels (approximately $380).

Not just the money

Construction worker Adham Abdelrahman, 39, receives less than 800 shekels per month. He works a grueling 12-hour day on average. He also had no idea that the law set a minimum wage of almost twice the amount he earns.

“I have never been paid this much. What’s the point of laws if they are not implemented?”

He said he was skeptical that officials have his interests or rights at heart.

And pay is not the only issue facing construction workers. Safety regulations are rarely implemented, workers have no health insurance and they are unlikely to receive any compensation in case of on-site accidents.

Salem al-Bashiti, 44, suffered a workplace accident four years ago that left one arm partially paralyzed.

“I was lucky that my contractor was a kind man who helped me cover some of the costs of treatment. But I know many who were abandoned without even some words of consolation after their accidents,” he said.

He looks forward to a day, he said, when construction workers could enjoy not only rights enshrined in law and enforced on site, but more general recognition.

“We work hard to serve and build our country. We deserve to be honored and treated well,” he said.

Isra Saleh el-Namey is a journalist in Gaza.