Category Archives: UAW

National Wave of Labor Support for Justice for Palestinians as Unions Vote to Divest from Israeli Apartheid: GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment (GSOC-UAW 2110, GEO-UAW 2322, UAW 2865)

Screenshot 2016-04-26 18.30.03Issued by the BDS Caucuses of UAW 2110 (NYU), UAW 2322 (UMass), and UAW 2865 (UC)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2016

Media contacts
NYU – gsocmembersforbds@gmail.com
UMass Amherst – Anna Waltman: anna.waltman@gmail.com UCs – uaw2865bds@gmail.com | Jennifer Mogannam: jennifer.mogannam@gmail.com

National Wave of Labor Support for Justice for Palestinians as Unions Vote to Divest from Israeli Apartheid

GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment

This past week the NYU Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), both representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

On April 22, GSOC-UAW 2110 endorsed a resolution calling for BDS against Israel with a 66.5 % member vote in favor. This endorsement came on the heels of the landslide vote of GEO-UAW 2322 member vote with 95% of voters in support. The resolutions calls on their respective employers–NYU and UMass–and their parent union, UAW International, to divest pension funds and other investments from Israeli institutions complicit in human rights violations of Palestinians. GSOC members also called on NYU to close its campus at Tel Aviv University, and 57% pledged to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel until they respect Palestinian rights.

These resolutions by aspiring educators of future generations significantly contribute to the already evolving discourse on justice for Palestinians. Growing momentum in U.S. labor movements adds to over eight academic associations which have endorsed BDS with resounding majorities. Last year, the Connecticut AFL-CIO (200,000 members) and the United Electrical Workers (35,000 members) also endorsed BDS.

“We are seeing growing momentum among grassroots labor in support for justice and equality for Palestinians. This wave of successive victories for BDS among labor groups representing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country is empowering and in line with the rich histories labor unions have in supporting justice movements.”–Beezer De Martelly, UAW 2865 member

As the movement for Palestinian freedom and equality continues to grow across the U.S., so too have concerted efforts to silence those critical of Israeli policies. In December 2014, the 14,000 student-worker union at the University of California (UAW Local 2865) system passed a similar resolution supporting BDS with 65% in favor. While admitting the vote was democratic, UAW International went on to “nullify” the results on dubious grounds, a decision that is currently under appeal. The decision clearly did not deter other locals from putting BDS to vote, a testament that movements for and by the people will persist despite undemocratic mechanisms of sanctioning political speech and grassroots commitments to local and global social justice.

“This surge of BDS campaigns by rank-and-file union members is an example of how workers are engaging in union democracy to reclaim the labor movement as a platform to take a stand on important social struggles of our time. Despite attempts by the UAW International Executive Board to quell BDS activism in the ranks, the fact that workers from coast to coast have democratically expressed solidarity with Palestinians shows that movements for justice cannot be silenced.” Anna Waltman, GEO-UAW 2322 member

Numerous unions, labor groups, and human rights organizations supported the integrity of UAW 2865’s BDS stand. A statement by the Autoworker Caravan, a coalition of industrial workers within the UAW committed to social justice unionism, commended Local 2865 on continuing UAW’s tradition of anti-South African apartheid and civil rights activism. These resolutions reflect the will of rank and file members and have engaged wide segments of workers in vigorous debate and conversation. Members have learned that Palestinian labor unions are not recognized by Israel, creating especially dire conditions for the 92,000 Palestinian workers who cross into Israel and its settlements. Historically, the labor movement has exerted real pressure on employers through strikes and workplace actions, and BDS campaigns have played a major role in the democratic awakening among labor unions in the U.S. These new votes of U.S. labor union endorsements for Palestinian freedom and equality adds additional weight to the voices who have already spoken out against Israeli human rights violations, and in support of BDS. U.S labor unions have a rich history of standing in solidarity with struggles for justice, and members will continue to mobilize so that all workers matter, not just some.

Attempts to Stifle BDS Support Within UAW Local Backfires (Shadow Proof)

Shadow Proof

ATTEMPTS TO STIFLE BDS SUPPORT WITHIN UAW LOCAL BACKFIRES

BDSposter

Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) have been fighting to protect a resolution passed in 2014 to support Palestinian civil society’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) call.

According to an official press release, in December 2014, UAW Local 2865, a student-workers union representing some 13,000 tutors, teaching assistants, and other student-workers at the University of California, became the first major U.S. labor union to demand that their union and employer divest from companies that have been complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians.

UAW Local 2865 members voted to endorse the BDS call for divestment in a landslide—by 65%—with 52% of voting members pledging to support an academic boycott, and over 2,100 voting.

In a letter endorsed by union leadership in the run-up to the vote:

We believe that as student and labor organizers, we have a duty to stand by principles of anti­-oppression organizing. As we stand in solidarity with Palestinian self­-determination, we also recognize that here in the United States we have our own systems of structural racism and settler colonialism to resist and dismantle. In the university system in which we both learn and labor, the disparity in access to people of color and working ­class people as well as the existence of our universities on stolen indigenous land alerts us to the importance of making these connections in our movements.

The measures that were called for were, according to the official statement released by UAW Local 2865:

“[That] the University of California divest from companies involved in the occupation of Palestine; that UAW International to divest from these same entities; the US government to end military aid to Israel. 52% of voting members pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.”

Since this historic vote, pressure on members who supported the resolution has mounted. Stephen Brumbaugh, a member of the union’s anti-BDS caucus known as Informed Grads, appealed the results of the vote to UAW Local 2865 in December 2014.

In 2015, the UAW 2865 vote in support of BDS was nullified by the International Executive Board. The IEB did not find any issues with the vote itself and went out of their way to defend the integrity of the process and make clear that the results represented the will of voting members. Instead, the IEB nullified the vote on constitutional grounds, claiming the vote interfered with the flow of commerce and could hurt UAW employers, as well as claiming that, by targeting Israeli policies, the resolutions discriminated against Israeli and even Jewish UAW members.

This claim of vilification, unsupported by evidence in the official record provided to Shadowproof, was upheld by the IEB despite the fact that the same records show significant numbers of Jewish and Israeli members and officers supported the resolution.

According to briefs provided to Shadowproof, UAW Local 2865 went on to appeal the IEB decision, stating in part that “the IEB improperly ignored the UAW constitutional mandate to solidify the labor movement and build solidarities with other unions, such as the Palestinian labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers who issued the call for BDS in 2005.”

The Local has appealed the IEB ruling to the UAW Public Review Board, a panel of labor lawyers with no affiliation to the UAW, who are empowered to review decisions of the IEB if they are appealed. Gibson Dunn and the UAW IEB have filed their own responses, and the Public Review Board has started its review of the case, with a final ruling expected in the next few months.

While the fate of UAW 2865’s resolution remains uncertain, the campaign to erase the Local’s Palestine solidarity work through undemocratic means has only backfired on those seeking to shield Israeli policy from criticism.

While major unions like the United Electrical Workers and the Connecticut AFL-CIO endorsed BDS resolutions following UAW 2865’s vote, there has been a greater increase in U.S. labor movement support for BDS following the nullification of their resolution.

Following nullification, rank-and-file activists in Local 2865 gathered nearly 18,000 signatures, including over 11,000 from the pro-BDS Jewish group Jewish Voice For Peace, and close to 500 signatures from US trade unionists. Activists also collected letters of support from a long list of prominent individuals, community groups, labor caucuses, as well as other unions.

Three UAW Locals—UAW 4121, UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110, which represent academic and other workers at the University of Washington, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and NYU, respectively—each wrote strong letters supporting UAW 2865’s right to local autonomy and democracy, demanding that the UAW IEB reinstate UAW 2865’s vote.

The Autoworkers Caravan, a progressive caucus of auto workers who are members of several different UAW Locals, also joined the chorus of voices demanding the IEB reverse course, showing that support for BDS extends beyond academic workers represented by UAW.

In addition to this outpouring of support for UAW 2865, BDS within the U.S. labor movement has also seen more concrete gains, fueled in part by anger over UAW 2865’s resolution nullification. Just this April, two unions within the UAW overwhelmingly endorsed BDS by member vote. GEO-UAW 2322, which represents 1,700 student workers at University of Massachusetts Amherst, announced on April 15 that they had passed a BDS resolution with a whopping 95% of their voting members in favor.

A week later, on April 22, GSOC-UAW 2110, which represents 2,000 student workers at NYU, announced that they had passed a BDS resolution with 67% of their voting members in favor, in an election that saw record-breaking voter turnout. The results at both of these unions came despite legal threats and intimidation from those opposed to the resolutions, as well as attempts by UAW Local 2110 officials to interfere with elections there.

According to discussions with members of the pro-BDS caucus within UAW 2865, other unions they are in touch with are also beginning their own BDS campaigns, meaning more resolutions like these are sure to follow.

Members from both GEO-UAW 2322 and GSOC-UAW 2110 specifically mention the nullification of UAW 2865’s vote as motivation for holding their votes now, showing that undemocratic efforts to stifle BDS activism within UAW have actually benefited the movement, rather than hindered it.

Activists in the UAW are making it clear to everyone that the only way to defeat BDS is to defeat the occupation. Jennifer Mogannam, a Ph.D. candidate at UC San Diego in the department of Ethnic Studies, a rank and file member of UAW 2865, told Shadowproof that the passage of and commitment to BDS at the student-worker union level “marks an important and uplifting shift in both academia and union organizing.”

Mogannam argues that this marks  a critical turn “in a new generation of scholars whereby not only are we able to engage critically on the question of Palestine, but it also indicates an unapologetic commitment to social justice in academia.”

“On the contrary, through the pushback and meaningless appeal based on politics and not protocol,” Mogannam explained, “we see the UAW international board exposing the contradictions within the labor movement by prioritizing fiscal and political relationships over workers’ rights and social justice.”

The attack against UAW is “part and parcel of the larger Zionist movement’s suppression and attacking of those fighting for Palestinian self-determination and against Israeli settler colonialism,” Mogannam said. This is why the fight continues.

The pressure on UAW, groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, and other organizations that have answered the BDS call, has grown with every successful BDS resolution—from targeted campaigns meant to instill fear of losing a job or academic position, to baseless accusations of anti-Semitism against those who oppose the state of Israel.

Kumars Salehi, a graduate student and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley, told Shadowproof that he’s already seen his career prospects and standing in his field threatened by smears against him, simply for being a Palestine advocate.

“Because of this campaign and other attempts to target me personally and brand me as a bigot, I have to live and work with the constant fear that I will be marginalized in my community and denied career opportunities because mentors, collaborators and employers will see me as a liability and a source of potentially unending controversy, ” Salehi says.

He now has to worry that he will be the target of disciplinary proceedings if a student is uncomfortable with him as a teacher, due to his political activities being publicly associated with bigotry.

On April 19, Salehi shared a poster being plastered across the UC Berkeley campus that read like a hit list. It accused a number of UC Berkeley faculty and students of allying themselves with “Jew hatred.” The poster reads:

“BDS. Boycott, Divestment, Sanction. A Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. The following students and faculty at UC Berkeley have allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew hatred on this campus.”

The poster listed the David Horowitz’s ‘Freedom Center’ at the bottom, along with the hashtag #StopTheJewHatredOnCampus. And still, whether it’s the fight against the UAW BDS resolution, or the stigmatization of students and faculty members, the push back against Palestine solidarity work has been growing, but that doesn’t mean that resistance has ebbed. The passage of BDS resolutions and organizating around solidarity actions continue. A statement by Kumars Salehi speaks to the attitude surrounding this resistance:

“At this point, being attacked personally doesn’t intimidate me. If my career were going to be fucked by Palestine activism, it already is.”

Election and Referendum Results (GSOC-UAW 2110)

UAW 2110 logoElection and Referendum Results

Dear Colleagues,

We write with the results of our election. Despite several irregularities in the run up to April 15 and the delay in opening voting on stewards and Joint Council delegates earlier this week, we are pleased to announce that our election results and the results of the referendum vote have now been counted and compiled. We will assemble and release a full report about the process as soon as possible.

We had a tremendous turnout, with approximately 38% of our current membership participating in the votes. This is clear evidence of a strong mandate for those elected below, and a sign that we graduate student workers in GSOC-Local 2110 maintain a significant commitment to the democratic process.


Notice of Election for Stewards and Local 2110 Joint Council Delegates

The following candidates have been elected to fill vacancies in the Humanities and Social Sciences district of Assembly of Stewards, with results stated as a total percentage of all votes cast in this district:
Nathaniel Preus with 32% of the votes in the district
Maya Wind with 32% of the votes in the district
Benjamin Fogel with 30% of the votes in the district

The following candidates have been elected to fill vacancies in the Professional Schools district of Assembly of Stewards, with results stated as a total percentage of all votes cast in this district:
Colette Perold with 20% of the votes in the district
Rachel Kuo with 19% of the votes in the district
Tim Neff with 19% of the votes in the district
Alex Campolo with 18% of the votes in the district
Joshua Krug with 6% of the votes in the district
Mijal Bitton with 5% of the votes in the district

The following candidates have been elected by acclamation to fill vacancies in the Tandon School of Engineering district of Assembly of Stewards
Vinay A. Banpel
Abhinav Swaminathan
Saurabh Pitre
Manjunath B Ramachandra
Siddharth Waghmare

The following candidates have been elected for the Local 2110 Joint Council delegates, with results stated as a total percentage of all votes cast in this race across all districts:
Claudia Carrera with 14% of the votes
Ziad Dallal with 13% of the votes
Benjamin Fogel with 12% of the votes
Sean Larson with 12% of the votes
Daniel Brinkerhoff Young with 11% of the votes
Sam Dinger with 11% of the votes
Nicholas Duron with 11% of the votes
Christopher P. Nickel with 11% of the votes


 

Notice of the results from the referendum on whether GSOC-UAW Local 2110 should join the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement:

Regarding,
Should GSOC-UAW Local 2110 join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles?

66.5% Vote Yes
33.5% Vote No
Out of a total of 645 votes.

Regarding,
The voluntary and non-binding individual commitment to participate in the academic boycott, which targets Israeli government and academic institutions complicit in Israeli violation of Palestinian rights.

57.6% Vote Yes
41.9% Vote No
Out of a total of 635 votes.


A full count of election data can be accessed here.

We thank you all for your participation in the election and the referendum vote. Your involvement in our union is critical. GSOC’s investment in a fair and democratic process for selecting our leadership and asserting our collective political orientations is inspiring. We as Votes Committee were honored to act in the service of our Unit and its part in the broader labor movement.

In Solidarity
Votes Committee

Jessica Feldman
Michael Gould-Wartofsky
Darach Miller
Tess Rankin
Shelly Ronen
Parth Singh

Historic: NYU’s Graduate Employee Union Becomes First Private University Labor Union to Support Divestment From Israel (GSOC-UAW 2110)

GSOC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 22, 2016

Contact:
Maya Wind: mayou22@gmail.com, (917) 913-7820
Sean Larson: larson14.21@gmail.com, (386) 882-8738

HISTORIC: NYU’s GRADUATE EMPLOYEE UNION BECOMES FIRST PRIVATE UNIVERSITY LABOR UNION TO SUPPORT DIVESTMENT FROM ISRAEL

IN SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN WORKERS AND STUDENTS, VOTING MEMBERS OF GSOC-UAW 2110 APPROVE CALL FOR DIVESTMENT by 66.5%; 57.6% pledged to uphold the academic boycott

In response to the call for solidarity from all major Palestinian trade unions, New York University graduate students voted to join the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-UAW 2110) is a labor union representing over 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University, and the first recognized graduate worker union at a private university in the US. 645 union members participated in a referendum that resulted in a call for NYU and UAW international to withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights. The referendum also calls on NYU to close its program in Tel Aviv University, which continues to violate NYU’s own Non-Discrimination policy.

366 members also pledged to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel, and refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities. There was an unusually large membership turnout, a testament to union democracy.

“After months of mass mobilization and a four day election, GSOC members have taken a clear stand for justice in Palestine.” says Shafeka Hashash, a member of the GSOC for BDS caucus. “This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide.”

Currently, over eight academic associations and several national unions have already endorsed BDS with a resounding majority. At the forefront of the graduate student unionization efforts in private institutions, NYU’s GSOC referendum set an important precedent for both solidarity with Palestine and for union democracy.

“In addition to bringing material gains for their members, NYU graduate students are reclaiming the union as a political platform for social justice causes. Through the recent mass mobilization for justice in Palestine we have taken a stand on one of the defining political issues of our time. The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students” said Maya Wind, a member of GSOC for BDS.

 

Just last week, the Graduate Employee Organization at University of Massachusetts Amherst successfully passed a BDS resolution by referendum, followed by an academic boycott measure approved by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council. The impact of NYU’s referendum will not only reverberate across private academic institutions where unionization efforts have gained momentum, but across the American academy more broadly.

In response to the rapidly growing success of the BDS movement, incidents of intimidation and repression against BDS activists have intensified. While legislators propose at times  unconstitutional laws banning boycotts of Israel, university administrators have been cracking down on free speech when it comes to Palestine solidarity. Despite its vibrant history, today the labor movement is no different. After UAW Local 2865 passed a BDS referendum in late 2014, the UAW International Executive Board “nullified” the results on dubious grounds, a decision currently under appeal. In this case, the repression of the BDS movement coincides with the repression of union democracy in the labor movement.

 

In the fight for social justice and against repression, the BDS movement and union democracy are natural allies. At NYU, the successful BDS referendum went ahead as planned even while the Local 2110 Executive Board attempted to interfere with democratic elections to union leadership bodies. In the NYU case, as well as the UAW “nullification” of the UC system BDS referendum, union executives have cracked down on their own membership. Just as in the UC system, the victory for BDS at NYU indisputably reflects the democratic will of the rank and file members. Not only was the BDS question brought to a referendum from over 10 percent of the membership, it also generated vigorous debate and engagement with the union among wide layers of graduate workers. As the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union have most recently made known, such an engaged rank and file poses a challenge to business as usual in the unions. This is why the BDS campaign is part of the struggle for the soul of the union.


As an academic worker union, GSOC represents another promising bridge for the BDS movement to leap from its stunning success among academic organizations into the labor movement more broadly. Already, the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention and the United Electrical Workers in the U.S. have passed resolutions endorsing BDS. “Labor, with its ability to exert real pressure on employers through strikes and workplace actions, can lend significant weight to BDS is the United States. When incorporated into labor union demands, the call to divest from Israel advances from a symbolic display to a concrete reality,” said Ziad Dallal, a steward in GSOC. “Justice in Palestine depends upon the ability of the US labor movement to demonstrate its solidarity,” Dallal added. By empowering the members themselves to speak, the emerging movement for union democracy among graduate students is helping to lead these efforts. Rank and file democracy is the future of the labor movement, and the labor movement can secure a vigorous future for BDS in the United States.

For more information, please visit www.nooccupiedpalestine.org.

GEO joins the BDS movement: Press Release! (GEO-UAW 2322)

cropped-FINAL-GEO-LOGO-SMALLGEO joins the BDS movement: Press Release!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 19, 2016

Media contact: Anais N. Surkin, Union Representative/Organizer: 917-940-0312, anais@uaw2322.org

UMass Amherst Union of Graduate Student Workers Endorses BDS!

Members of the Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst voteoverwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to  join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement!

During a three day (April 12-14) vote, by secret ballot, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW2322) at University of Massachusetts in Amherst voted overwhelmingly (95%) in favor of adopting a resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society and join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. The largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local Amalgamated 2322 (UAW 2322), GEO represents over 2,000 graduate student workers at the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This makes GEO the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.

This resolution renews and furthers a 2003 GEO resolution to divest from the Israeli occupation, and honors the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society– including trade unions, university faculty, and student groups– to embrace BDS worldwide as a tactic to put political and economic pressure on the Israeli state until it complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. The resolution also calls on our employer, UMass, and our union, the UAW, to divest from and boycott companies that fuel and profit from the military occupation and repression of Palestinians.  During a period of open dialogue when all members were encouraged to express diverse views, engage and organize, both the GEO Black Caucus and Jewish GEO members publicly endorsed the resolution.

A similar resolution passed in December 2014 by UAW 2865, the student-worker union at the University of California (UC) was later nullified by the International Executive Board of the UAW. That nullification is currently under appeal.  GEO and our local, UAW2322, stand with the UC union’s decision to appeal the nullification of their democratic vote to embrace BDS. We urge the UAW International to respect the democratic membership vote to endorse BDS, and in doing so we invite them to join us on the right side of history.

Quotes from GEO/UAW Members:

Santiago Vidales, GEO Co-Chair  “The fact that an overwhelming majority of our union voted for BDS is a testament to what social justice unionism looks like. Over and over again we were asked why GEO was getting involved in world politics. The reality is that Palestinian workers on our campus are entitled to their basic human and civil rights when they travel back home. By answering the call of the BDS Movement in Palestine, GEO members join other graduate worker unions across the country in demanding that our universities, our unions, and our communities boycott and divest from Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian territories. We know that our principled stand will be criticized, scrutinized and challenged. But we know that we are building a movement for liberation. The liberation of Palestinian people is inherently connected to our own.”

Kevina King and Tiamba Wilkerson, GEO Black Caucus Executive Board  “The Black Caucus is immensely proud that our union put its proverbial “money where its mouth is” and voted in support of justice for the Palestinian people. It is especially meaningful for the Black Caucus, as we recognize the historical links between the liberation struggles of Black and Palestinian people, and how our traditions of resistance continue to inspire other oppressed and marginalized peoples across the world. International solidarity, particularly between Black and Palestinian people, is as important now as it has ever been, as both communities continue to fight state sanctioned terrorism and racist violence.”

Ghazah Abbasi, GEO member, Department of Sociology Global capitalism is a colonial, white-supremacist, heteropatriarchal system that alienates us deeply and multiply. A key part of overcoming our alienation is understanding our common humanity with other workers and peoples within and outside the US. It would be deeply contradictory for graduate student workers of UMass Amherst to campaign for our own rights while being complacent about the atrocious rights-violations taking place in Israel with the ideological and financial backing of the United States government. As a GEO member, I am deeply gratified to see that my union is committed to advocating for the fundamental dignity and equality of all workers, and all people, throughout the world. Peoples’ rights as workers are ‘legal’ rights dependent on the security of their other ‘natural’ inalienable rights – such as the right to food, physical security, physical mobility, and freedom from violence. Yet these basic rights are consistently denied to the Palestinian peoples by the state of Israel. Because there can be no conditions for fair and equitable work under colonialism and military siege, it is imperative to demand the immediate and unqualified decolonization of Palestine.”

Alyssa Goldstein, GEO/UAW2322 Palestine Solidarity Caucus Member As a Jewish GEO member and one of the drafters of the “Jews Support BDS” letter, I am so proud to see this resolution pass with overwhelming support. The state of Israel does not stand for or represent the Jewish people, and we must not allow its oppression of the Palestinians to continue in our name. The Jewish activists, in my union and elsewhere, who speak out for Palestinian equality uphold the tradition of the Jewish commitment to justice.

Union officials attempt to cancel elections and silence support for BDS (GSOC-UAW 2110)

GSOC

Click here to tell UAW 2110 leadership: Respect Union Democracy and BDS in GSOC-UAW

Updated version:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2016

Press Contacts:
Maya Wind: mayou22@gmail.com, (917) 913-7820
Sean Larson: larson14.21@gmail.com,  (386) 882-8738

Academic Workers for a Democratic Union and GSOC for BDS:
Union officials attempt to cancel elections and silence support for BDS

NEW YORK: Late Friday night, graduate student workers at New York University were shocked to receive notice from UAW Local 2110 Executive Board that the Local was cancelling the scheduled elections and installing a slate of members to the executive body of the graduate union, GSOC, by default. The incident in Local 2110 could cause major setbacks for UAW efforts to organize graduate workers at other universities. This sudden suspension of union democracy coincides with a much-publicized GSOC referendum on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, scheduled to take place during elections this week. The news also comes after months of preparation for the elections to GSOC’s Assembly of Stewards and Local 2110’s Joint Council, long scheduled to take place from Monday, April 18, to Thursday, April 21.

The announcement by the Local President was followed by individual emails to many candidates stating that they had been disqualified on shaky — and now contested — grounds. The GSOC Votes Committee has issued an open letter to the Local challenging their right to determine internal unit matters and disenfranchise GSOC members. Notably, Local 2110 Executive Board disqualified supporters of the GSOC for BDS caucus, leaving several leaders of the GSOC for Open Dialogue to automatically take the seats without contest. Members of GSOC for Open Dialogue have publicly opposed the BDS resolution. Over the last eight months, members of the GSOC for BDS caucus have been waging an educational and organizing campaign within the union, gathering hundreds of signatures to put the question of joining the BDS movement to referendum.

“I find it too much of a coincidence that AWDU and BDS supporters and advocates have been denied the chance to be voted for, especially given an unclear enforcement over eligibility criteria, which remain ambiguous until now,” said Ziad Dallal, one of the candidates originally disqualified. “The local’s intransigence on this view is undemocratic and disheartens and betrays the trust of the GSOC rank and file,” he added.

Such strong-armed interference in the election process is unprecedented in the union. In previous elections, Local 2110 collaborated with the GSOC unit Votes Committee to carry out elections at NYU, and members were eligible to run based on GSOC bylaws. For the April 2016 elections in conjunction with the BDS vote, however, repeated requests for clarification and collaboration by the GSOC Votes Committee were ignored by the Local president, Maida Rosenstein, and previously unused and long-contested eligibility requirements were unilaterally imposed by the Local. Of the fourteen candidates originally disqualified at the last minute, ten were known supporters of the BDS caucus and nine were members of the democratic reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU).

Sean Larson, a member of the GSOC for BDS caucus and a disqualified candidate said: “The Local has shown it is afraid of democracy, and are willing to upend all precedents to interfere with internal GSOC matters. This undermines the very claims of the UAW to be able to organize academic workers with our unique workplace structure, and puts our entire project in jeopardy.”

The Local 2110 intervention bodes very poorly for UAW prospects of continuing to expand in the academic worker sector. As Local officials have admitted, the membership definition in Local Bylaws, which requires workers to be employed for six months in order to receive full rights is incompatible with the contingent and non-consecutive work situation of NYU graduate workers. The arbitrary application of Local Bylaw requirements on internal GSOC unit affairs therefore disenfranchises the bulk of graduate student workers and prevents them from serving as stewards for their union. Other universities, whose graduate students are organized under UAW, have resolved these issues to allow for comprehensive graduate worker membership.

As divestment campaigns sweep campuses across the nation, New York University graduate students are still voting on whether to join the BDS movement. GSOC-UAW 2110, a labor union representing over 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University, is the first graduate employee union at a private university to hold a membership vote on boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli occupation and for Palestinian self-determination. If passed, GSOC-UAW 2110 will join the University of California Student-Worker union UAW local 2865, as well as University of Massachusetts Amherst and CUNY’s doctoral students council, who voted to endorse BDS just last week.

The proposed measure calls on NYU and UAW International to divest their investments, including pension funds, from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights. It also calls on NYU to close its study abroad program at Tel Aviv University and asks that members pledge to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel and refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights.

This historic vote on BDS occurs in the wake of a growing momentum for the BDS movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide. Over eight academic associations and countless university student councils have already joined the movement. Major unions internationally have also joined, including the National Union of Students in the UK, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, as well as the United Electrical Workers Union and Connecticut AFL-CIO here in the US.

Between legislation banning BDS organizing and threatening to defund student groups who support the movement, it seems like Israel supporters will stop at nothing to silence activists seeking justice for the Palestinians.

The Adjunct Project Endorses the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

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The Adjunct Project endorses the Resolution Endorsing the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, scheduled to be voted on at the April 15 plenary meeting of the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) at the Graduate Center, CUNY. This resolution responds to a call from Palestinian academic workers in the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, among other Palestinian labor and civil-society organizations. If passed, it would require the DSC to adhere to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and support the work of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups and other solidarity efforts.

Palestinian workers face some of the world’s highest unemployment rates and are increasingly forced to take exploitative, unregulated, non-unionized jobs. Answering the call to boycott is a refusal to cooperate with institutions complicit in Palestinian workers’ exploitation and occupation.

In New York City and across North America, groups supporting Palestinians have come under attack. Students, faculty, and other workers associated with CUNY SJP chapters currently face unsupported charges of anti-Semitism that infringe on their freedom of speech, their academic freedom, and their working conditions. The Adjunct Project joins the SJPs in vehemently opposing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of bigotry and racism. We advocate an end to Israeli state apartheid policies as a specifically anti-racist and anti-colonial project.

We further condemn local and state politicians who attempt to justify a regime of austerity through the suppression of solidarity organizing on campuses. In March, the New York State Senate voted for a $485-million reduction in state funding for CUNY in part as retribution for Palestinian solidarity organizing on campuses. This planned defunding failed in last-minute budget negotiations, but the CUNY system still faces a massive shortfall: in addition to millions of dollars in cuts to individual colleges, no funds were allocated for contract negotiations with the 25,000 workers represented by the Professional Staff Congress who have gone six years without a pay increase.

The passage of this academic-boycott resolution is important for resisting both the austerity politics that target public employees like CUNY workers and, in particular, the effects of such politics on working-class people-of-color students, faculty, and staff, who must contend with forms of structural racism, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism similar to those faced by Palestinians.

We join the graduate student worker union UAW 2865 at the University of California in endorsing academic boycott and the many other academic groups that have done so as well, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association, and we support the GSOC for BDS caucus of the union of graduate student workers at New York University in their referendum on BDS, including academic boycott.

The boycott resolution before the DSC is an important step in supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. We encourage representatives of the DSC to vote for the resolution, and all members of the CUNY community to raise awareness, through resources like those provided by Labor for Palestine, and to support or get involved with efforts on their campuses, including CUNY for Palestine and SJP chapters.

With love and solidarity,

The Adjunct Project coordinators

[Image: “Palestine: The Separation Wall” by MissyKel via CC BY-NC-Nd 2.0.]

Labor for Palestine Update

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Labor for Palestine Update

ManawellManawel Abdel-Al, of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (third from left) speaks at 2016 Labor Notes conference.

Dear fellow trade unionist,

As reported below, trade union solidarity with Palestine continues to grow.

Labor Notes Conference
In two well-attended sessions at the 2016 Labor Notes conference in Chicago, Manawel Abdel-Al, of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, explained the condition of Palestinian workers (including the recent West Bank teachers’ strike), and his personal support for one democratic state with equal rights for all throughout historic Palestine, coupled with refugees’ full right of return.

He also discussed the need for solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  This was followed by discussion of recent BDS work in North America, including Labor for Palestine (LFP) campaignsILWU Local 10 members’ refusal to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo; and historic BDS resolutions from UAW 2865CNS (Quebec)United Electrical Workers, and Connecticut AFL-CIO.

LFP Delegation to Palestine
An LFP delegation has just returned from Palestine, a report of which is forthcoming.

LFP at Western Mass Jobs With Justice
This Saturday, April 16, LFP and other BDS supporters will be speaking at a Jobs With Justice conference in Springfield, MA.

To build on this momentum, please:

*Read and distribute Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly, December 2015), which provides historic and current overview.

*Sign and share Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)

*Tell us how we can support efforts to organize LFP meetings, chapters, resolutions, and/or other events in your local area.

*Let us know if you are interested in joining a future LFP delegation to Palestine.

*Like the LFP Facebook page.

*Donate to Labor for Palestinewhich has been at the forefront of U.S. labor BDS since 2004.

Solidarity!

Labor for Palestine Conveners
*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW
*Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU L. 10 (retired)
*Jaime Veve, TWU L. 100 (retired)

LaborforPalestine.net
info@laborforpalestine.net

Solidarity With GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS Vote (UAW 2865)

April 8, 2016

fhammer0127tradeunions-240Dear Advocates for Justice at GSOC­UAW Local 2110,

We, members of the BDS Caucus of UAW 2865, are inspired by your campaign to join the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement until such time as Israel adheres to international law by ceasing its oppressive treatment of the Palestinian people. Calling on NYU and the UAW International to divest from Israeli state institutions, and on individuals to respect the academic boycott, are righteous and necessary components in honoring the call for solidarity from Palestinian laborers who are currently suffering under Israeli apartheid and colonization.

In December 2014, our local became the first major labor union in the US to join the BDS movement. In one of our local’s historically highest voting turnouts, thousands of members voted, by a landslide, to call on the UAW International and the University of California to divest from Israeli apartheid and colonialism and on the US government to stop all forms of aid to Israel. While the vote has since been nullified by the UAW International, the moral momentum that drove the campaign and the overwhelming outpouring of support we have received following the nullification are testaments to the fact that to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self­determination is to be on the right side of history and justice.

One of the guiding visions of our campaign was to trace connections among the logics, institutions and bodies responsible for oppressing Palestinians with similar forces and logics of oppression we experience in our own localities. This framework allowed us to draw parallels with how standing in solidarity with Palestinian liberation is central to our work in fighting for the liberation of all oppressed people, including but not limited to people of color, workers, immigrants, women and LGBTQ communities. In addition, campaigns such as ours, and now yours, highlight the critical importance of our tripartite roles as students, academics and laborers, allowing us to be the protagonists of our stories and active agents of social transformation on our campuses. This nexus reflects how the Palestinian struggle is speaking to multiple sectors and dimensions of identity, activism and people, and it provides an incredible learning opportunity for us to develop collective conversations about our rights and responsibilities to global justice. As students and workers of conscience, it is incumbent upon us to side with all who face oppression and persecution. This is as true of Palestine as it was for South Africa, and surely for the many matters of injustice and oppression we are witnessing in our own campuses and communities here in the US.

Following the UAW 2865 BDS victory, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) became the first national union to endorse BDS. The Connecticut branch of the AFL­CIO has also endorsed BDS. This growth in BDS participation among the labor movement and beyond is a reflection that, despite efforts of repression, silencing and criminalization, a movement that belongs to the people cannot be stifled. We are inspired by your courage and ethical fortitude, and we extend our heartfelt support for your efforts. We salute you for practicing ethical, justice­centered and democratic union practices, and are certain that the US labor movement in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom will only grow.

In Solidarity,
UAW 2865 BDS Caucus

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement Comes to New York University (Muftah)

April 7th, 2016

Social justice is finding a home at New York University (NYU), one of the nation’s most expensive institutions of higher education. Students at NYU have been pushing for the school’s graduate student union, known as GSOC, to endorse the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement with a motion that calls on NYU to adopt the campaign’s key provisions. Voting on the ballot, which is available here, is expected to take place over four days from April 18 to 22.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, commonly referred to as “BDS,” is an international effort to exert political and economic pressure on Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and treatment of its Palestinian citizens. The movement engages in peaceful civil resistance that involves three elements: boycotting entities that profit from violations of Palestinian rights; divesting from corporations that finance such organizations; and calling for direct sanctions against the Israeli state to deprive it of the goods and services that support its occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

At every stage, the NYU campaign to ratify the BDS motion has been democratic and transparent. Ella Wind, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and elected Unit Representative for NYU’s GSOC, told Muftah that groups supporting and opposing the measure have been actively campaigning ahead of the vote. The union has scheduled town hall events to discuss the motion, and made its website available to interested groups to post information about their position on the vote. Due to popular demand, multiple town halls have been scheduled before the vote, in order involve as many members of the student body in the debate.

Wind told Muftah that the BDS campaign was partly inspired by and modeled after a similar vote taken by GSOC’s sister chapter at the University of California in December 2014. According to the UC union’s press release, it was the “first major U.S. labor union to support divestment from Israel by [a] membership vote.”  Nearly as remarkable was the level of support the motion received: voters endorsed BDS by 2 to 1, with 65% of the union’s rank and file voting in favor of the resolution.

Despite this overwhelming support, the executive board of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which is the umbrella organization for the UC and NYU graduate student unions, took steps in January 2016 to overturn the admittedly “fair and democratic vote.” Journalist Ben Norton published an account of the board’s nullification effortsin Salon, providing perhaps the most nuanced coverage on the issue. Norton’s side-by-side comparison of the UAW board’s rationale and the UC union’s response demonstrated that the board’s decision was, as the UC union claimed, “imposed to undermine the union’s collective bargaining power” and “grossly misrepresent[ed] the actual text of [the] resolution.”

The UAW board’s unilateral action is but one example of growing institutional opposition to the grassroots BDS movement.

Indeed, one of the most recent blows to BDS has come from the U.S. federal government itself. On February 24, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a trade bill into law that, according to Ma’an News Agency, condemns “politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel.” The New York State Senate also passed a bill in January 2016 that, if signed into law, would prohibit the state from contracting with pro-BDS entities and require that it maintain a McCarthy-esque list of individuals and organizations active in the BDS movement.

As Wind stressed, however, the pushback against BDS has a silver lining. “Backlash against BDS shows that it is working, because if it were not then [its opponents] would not try so aggressively to work against it,” she said. Efforts to promote BDS, even if unsuccessful, can only encourage individuals to take a principled stand on an important issue and ensure the debate on Israel’s actions against the Palestinians continues.

These benefits are ones that cannot be undone by top-down maneuvering spearheaded by institutions or moneyed interests, no matter how hard they try.