May 27, 2016 Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution — and more, from Labor for Palestine
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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
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
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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.”
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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.
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Posted onMay 26, 2016|Comments Off on 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
For 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
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.”
“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
Comments Off on 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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Comments Off on Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)
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.”
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.
Comments Off on Union officials suppress member support for BDS (Palestine Legal)
Urgent Action: Protest Israel’s war on BDS
“We’re urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to take the necessary measures to uphold and protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the BDS movement. Please click here to add your name to our appeal now.”
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.
Response to President Hamilton, NYU (GSOC Members for BDS)
“As with the boycott of Apartheid South African universities–which NYU eventually supported, revealing that the university has not always been categorically against such boycotts–we hope to create pressure so that Israel respects the freedoms of the Palestinians, including their academic freedoms.” Read full text.
UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism
“Make no mistake, it is the repeated ignoring and delegitimization of Islamophobia, racism, and complicity in the routine suppression of pro-Palestine speech and activity on university campuses that allowed for the sort of escalation we have seen from David Horowitz and his followers, whose actions epitomize the often ignored intersection of Islamophobia, racism, and the demonization of pro-Palestine sentiment.” Read full text.
Amherst Professors: UAW Resolution affirms human rights (Daily Collegian)
“It is encouraging to us as faculty that GEO, the largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local 2322, and representing over 2,000 graduate student workers at our flagship campus, voted overwhelmingly (95 percent) in favor of the resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society. In doing so it became the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.” Read full text.
Where Did The Palestinians Go?
In 1948, around 80% of Palestinians were forced out of their homes during the creation of Israel. That event is known as the Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.” So where did they go? And how many Palestinians are there around the world now?
Comments Off on Urgent Action: Sign appeal to the UN about Israel’s war of repression on BDS — and other news from Labor for Palestine
UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism
On Friday, April 15th, 2016, posters defaming individuals involved with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, more broadly were discovered at UCLA. Commissioned by conservative agitator David Horowitz and likely circulated by unknown individuals working in collaboration, similar posters have also been confirmed at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and San Diego State University. While this is not the first time that Horowitz has circulated posters on university campuses attacking SJP and MSA, this latest round represents a serious escalation from Horowitz’s past efforts. In this most recent poster campaign, individual student and faculty names from each respective campus are prominently displayed beneath the charge of having “allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew Hatred on campus” as a result of their supporting BDS and the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination.
In addition to student activists in MSA and SJP, Horowitz also attacked two Black professors at UCLA as well as Angela Davis, a prominent activist combatting all forms of oppression in the US and abroad and Black professor from UC Santa Cruz, for their support of Palestinian rights. This is hardly unexpected from Horowitz, who in addition to his attacks on Muslims, has a long history of attacking the Black community. In 2001, Horowitz took out ads in campus newspapers including the Daily Californian which claimed that Black Americans should be “grateful” for slavery.
Horowitz’s poster campaign followed a recent incident at the University of California, Riverside which took place sometime over spring break in which graduate student offices and a faculty office were vandalized. The Chair of the department of Ethnic Studies, Dr. Dylan Rodriguez, identified the incident as “despicable acts of symbolic and cultural violence, threat and harassment.” He also said, “Women of color have been specifically targeted by these parties, and the available information makes it abundantly clear that these acts of violence are significantly motivated by anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiment and/or ideology.”
We in UAW 2865 condemn these posters as Islamophobic and racist fear-mongering tactics intended to chill and silence protected political speech. Though concerned by the woefully insufficient reaction of UC Berkeley administration as well as the complete lack of attention by officials at UC Santa Barbara, we are heartened by the swift administrative response from UCLA, whose Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sent an email to the campus community denouncing the posters as intimidation and defending the integrity of SJP and MSA. Nevertheless, we hope that UC administrators will continue working to better implement SJP UCLA’s requests, which include a meeting between the Chancellor and Palestinian students on campus and training campus officials in recognizing, condemning and confronting Islamophobia and racism against people of Southwest Asian/North African background as they should any other form of institutional, ideological or interpersonal xenophobia and violence. We further hope that administrators on all other impacted campuses will take similar measures.
Although UCLA administrators have worked to address the needs of students there, UCSB administrators have been silent thus far. And Berkeley officials, though aware of the strong statement released at UCLA, opted to stop short of offering the same level of support. Instead they released an anemic statement that failed to provide the campus community with adequate context in understanding why these posters are so inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous. Horowitz has had a long history of surveilling college students on their very own campuses and his tactics of slander, intimidation and bullying have been experienced by multiple generations of student organizers. Yet even as some administrators in the UC have been quick to repudiate Horowitz’s actions, it is clear that they did not occur in a vacuum.
In May 2015, UC President and former Head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano opined that the UC Regents should adopt the State Department Definition of anti-Semitism, which equates virtually any criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism. In fact, the push for the UC Regents to adopt this definition was the result of years of effort by groups such as the AMCHA Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, and the Brandeis Center to ensure that any and all speech that advocates for Palestinian freedom through BDS and other non-violent educational activities on UC campuses are equated with anti-Semitism. This latest attempt to stifle support for Palestinian rights developed from various previously unsuccessful pursuits of Title VI complaints, each of which was dismissed by the Department of Education, alleging that BDS and pro-Palestine speech deprived Jewish students of equal access to a quality education. The clamor for the State Department Definition was only the most recent phase of this broader push to slow the growth of the BDS movements on UC campuses, and AMCHA founder and UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin (who was caught on video espousing repugnantly Islamophobic generalizations about Palestinian and Palestine solidarity student activists) admitted that enforcement of the State Department Definition would stigmatize BDS as anti-Semitic.
Despite the UC Regents’ claims to the contrary, the desire to abandon adoption of the State Department definition in favor of an ostensibly all-encompassing “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” did not ultimately constitute a shift away from monitoring criticism of Israel on university campuses. This was made clear by the very selection of so-called “experts” who were to be consulted during the drafting process: all of them were men, one was a driving force for the racially exclusionary Proposition 209, and two are known to advocate for the suppression of speech critical of Israel. This panel represents a rather limited demographic of “experts” to weigh in on what is alleged to be an all-encompassing anti-oppression statement.
Accordingly, the struggles of various communities were superficially coopted in a cheap attempt to legitimize the statement’s direct and false equation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Though the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” was ultimately amended before being passed to condemn instead “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” and though it remains technically unenforceable on constitutional grounds, we condemn the process of drafting the “Statement of Principles” and find the finished product to be disastrously and offensively out of touch with the on-the-ground realities university students face today. Among other portions, this disconnect is evidenced by a section from the introductory “Contextual Statement” about Islamophobia.
According to page 5 of the “Contextual Statement”:
“Terrorist attacks by self-described religious fundamentalists have fueled Islamophobic attacks against peaceful members of our communities who are–or are perceived to be–followers of Islam. These attacks and counter-attacks generate fear on UC campuses as much as they do outside the UC community, and they sometimes generate policy positions or statements that are perceived to be personal attacks that reflect prejudice or intolerance based solely on religious belief.”
Despite the fact that the UC Regents repeatedly prided themselves on having drafted a statement that included Islamophobia at their March 23rd meeting, this language comes appallingly close to apologia for Islamophobia in centering not the reprehensibility of Islamophobia itself nor the danger to those directly impacted, but rather the “fear” of the general UC community, and implying a cyclical parity between vigilante violence and Islamophobic bigotry and aggression. Most distressingly, the statement’s conclusion that this “cycle” of attacks and Islamophobic “counter-attacks” “generate[s] policy positions or statements that are perceived to be personal attacks that reflect prejudice or intolerance based solely on religious belief” paints Islamophobia as a matter of misperception, rather than a dangerously escalating phenomenon. It also does not recognize that the culture wars taking place on University campuses are largely informed by, funded through and incited by the University of California’s ties to privatized business profiting from war and militarization in the South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region. The statement gives no mention to rhetorics of intolerance and bigotry in the current Presidential election or US policy and structural and institutional violations of civil liberties impacting Arab, Muslim and SWANA peoples in the US as being tied to the rise of Islamophobia.
This is hardly the statement one would expect in response to a domestic climate in which politicians and public figures have seriously proposed interment for Muslims in the U.S.; when leading presidential candidates campaign on banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and glorify Islamophobic violence; when half of polled American voters support this proposed Muslim ban; when individuals are assaulted simply for speaking Arabic or wearing hijab in public;when Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim) are removed from flights without explanation,, or for speaking Arabic, as recently befell a UC Berkeley student of Iraqi origin; when Islamophobic sentiment in the U.S. is so pronounced that the Department of Education feels compelled to issue an open letter warning educators to be vigilant about the climate for Muslim students.
These toxic attitudes have also entered U.S. policy, evidenced by a law signed last December that subjects European citizens of Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Sudanese descent to discriminatory screening and visa barriers to travel to the U.S. This law risks making U.S. citizens with national origins from those same countries into second-class citizens by causing the E.U. to reciprocate and subject them to visa discrimination as well. Even after the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” was passed, the UC Regents attempted to use their authority to intimidate the American Association of Anthropologists into voting against an academic boycott of Israeli institutions with a proven track record of perpetuating the occupation, discriminating against and denying Palestinians the very right to academic freedom on which the Regents claim to base their opposition, showing where their true priorities lie.
The statement’s take on other forms of racism and xenophobia, which are cheaply consolidated into a single paragraph and reduced to a matter of differences in “debates” on university campuses, is equally abysmal. Racism is transformed from a systemic issue to a matter of insensitive discourse, which is convenient given that it was the UC Regents who helped introduce structural inequality to the UC system by laying the groundwork for what would become proposition 209, which effectively decimated the enrollment rate and statistical and physical presence of students of color on UC campuses. Transmuting racism from a systemic issue to a matter of personal worldview and speech allows the UC Regents to deflect responsibility and complicity for the structural inequalities still inherent to the UC from both themselves as well as the administrators on each campus tasked with responding to student needs.
There is no denying that Horowitz’s posters are defamatory, racist, and Islamophobic. But when the UC Regents continue to prioritize the monitoring of discourse related to Palestine/Israel over acknowledging the clearly escalating levels of Islamophobia and racism on the national front, or when administrators on UC campuses remain glaringly uninformed about Islamophobia and racism, they are complicit in creating the very environment that leads to Horowitz’s incitement as well as the incident currently being investigated as a hate crime at UC Riverside.
Make no mistake, it is the repeated ignoring and delegitimization of Islamophobia, racism, and complicity in the routine suppression of pro-Palestine speech and activity on university campuses that allowed for the sort of escalation we have seen from David Horowitz and his followers, whose actions epitomize the often ignored intersection of Islamophobia, racism, and the demonization of pro-Palestine sentiment.
Whatever our demographic and/or political beliefs, all of us–students, faculty, and campus workers–deserve equal protection and an educational environment free from harassment and intimidation. But absent a genuine comprehension of the racism and harassment most directly affecting university students today, such a goal will be nothing more than a pipe dream to which UC officials can pretend to pay lip service through the denunciation of someone like Horowitz, who in fact is only capitalizing on an atmosphere that UC Regents and administrators have aided and abetted.
The full text and PDF of this statement, including relevant citations, can be found here.
Sean Larson, a member of the graduate student workers union at New York University, describes his union’s historic vote in favor of Palestine solidarity.
April 26, 2016
Members of GSOC-UAW Local 2110 participate in the BDS vote (GSOC-UAW Local 2110)
IT WAS 4:30 in the morning on April 22 before the final votes were counted in the presence of tearful and apprehensive onlookers and the result was announced: By a vote of 429 to 216, the graduate workers of New York University (NYU) voted overwhelmingly to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israeli apartheid.
Nearly 650 union members voted on the referendum, a strong turnout indicating widespread support for justice in Palestine.
The resounding success of the BDS referendum was the culmination of a nine-month-long education and organizing campaign among the membership of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) at NYU, a part of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2110.
GSOC-UAW 2110 is a labor union representing over 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at NYU, and the only recognized union in the U.S. for graduate workers at a private university.
The BDS vote was initiated by GSOC’s BDS caucus in response to the call for solidarity from Palestinian civil society and all major Palestinian trade unions. With clear support from its membership, GSOC is now calling on both the UAW and NYU to withdraw investments from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights.
In accordance with the BDS call, GSOC is also calling on NYU to close down its study abroad program at Tel Aviv University, which continues to violate NYU’s own non-discrimination policy by enforcing Israel’s apartheid laws on its students.
The academic boycott is an important step in exposing how all aspects of Israeli culture and scholarship are tainted with apartheid if they do not take a stand against it. One cannot be a fighter against one form of oppression while ignoring the systematic racism upon which one’s state is built and perpetuates itself.
The atmosphere of threats and intimidation that BDS supporters in Israel face is a reminder that Israel will tolerate many forms of progressive politics in the academy as long as academics keep their mouths shut about the occupation.
It is especially important for unions to take a stand in solidarity with Palestine. All of the Palestinian trade union federations have signed on to the BDS call, bidding their fellow workers worldwide to make good on the principle of solidarity as the basis for any effective labor movement.
Opponents of BDS may criticize labor unions for taking a stance on a supposedly extraneous and controversial issue, but if the labor movement is to fight for a multiracial and international working class, it must combat racism and oppression of all kinds.
Palestine solidarity resolutions in labor unions are not “divisive.” That’s what apartheid is–by definition. BDS is a step toward unity, and this is all the more important for a relatively new union to show its members that it can represent their interests.
At NYU, GSOC has demonstrated that it is a union willing to defend its many Palestinian members who are directly affected by Israeli apartheid laws. The endorsement of the BDS campaign shows that the union will foster a culture of acceptance and solidarity with the oppressed. Graduate workers will not stand idly by while Israel bombs the homes of fellow union members and the oppressed people of Palestine.
The implications of the GSOC referendum are clear: more and more academic workers will become aware that relations with an apartheid regime cannot in any way be considered “normal.”
NYU’s institutional link with Tel Aviv University, which is located on the destroyed Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwanis and takes pride in developing military technologies and murderous war doctrines used in the occupation, will be henceforward put into question as a relationship that legitimizes apartheid.
In the lead-up to the GSOC referendum, Local 2110 President Maida Rosenstein made the case for continuing to do nothing: “Why not wait until the Public Review Board rules [on the appeal by Local 2865] before conducting this referendum?” she suggested in a communication to GSOC stewards. Such hedging and legalism is to be expected as the solidarity struggle with Palestine heats up.
Against this complacency we must remember that never before has change come about by itself. Segregation and the Jim Crow laws did not melt away while well-intentioned citizens let the legal system take its course, and the leaders of apartheid South Africa did not suddenly come to terms with their own moral bankruptcy.
These systems of oppression were instead dismantled by broad-based social movements that took bold and uncompromising stands. For decades Palestinians have endured the brutal occupation of their land and waited for the international labor movement to recognize their suffering and take a stand.
The attempted suppression of member voices in UAW Local 2865 only galvanized GSOC members in favor of BDS to redouble their efforts. Now the success at NYU has to be built upon in other labor unions and academic institutions.
This victory in GSOC is an important ray of hope for the movement. In the early hours last Friday, as the votes came rolling in, each “yes” symbolized an outstretched hand of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. The dawning realization that victory in this vote was near brought waves of emotion among the many union members, including Palestinians, who were present.
As Murhaf Abdalqader, a Palestinian student attending NYU, said:
While I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I can say that if Palestinians saw the passion and dedication that I saw from the people of all different backgrounds behind this initiative, they’d be inspired with hope. Hope that they gave up on ages ago. Hope [the lack of which] has led us to where we are today–hope of an actual future.
I know that for me, I had given up on things improving in my lifetime. But the results of last night resurrected that child-like hope again. Thank you GSOC. And thank you to everyone who participated, organized or voted yes. Here’s to a free and prospering Palestine.
The NYU referendum shows that the tide is turning against defenders of apartheid. Palestine solidarity organizers should take courage from this historic victory and know that history is on our side. There will be justice in Palestine. The BDS movement is bringing it closer every day.
Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!
Joint Statement 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. . . . 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.
Context: America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)
Following a well-attended panel hosted by Western Mass Labor for Palestine at the April 16 Jobs With Justice Conference in Springfield, MA, author Vijay Prashad extensively reviews the rise of Labor for Palestine and U.S. trade union support for BDS. Panelists included Prashad, LFP Co-Conveners Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin, Carol Lambiase (United Electrical Workers), Bill Shortell (International Association of Machinists), and was moderated by WMLFP members Jordy Rosenberg and Ruth Jennison. Prashad’s article concludes by quoting Adely: “Ultimately, building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”
Labor to Palestine: We Stand with Palestine in the Spirit of “Sumud”: The U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
On April 16, the nineteen-member March 2016 delegation to Palestine, which included LFP Co-convener Jaime Veve and several other trade unionists, issued a powerful report stating, in part: “We join hands with our comrades in the Palestinian labor movement and salute the struggle of striking teachers, labor organizers and workers demanding economic justice, independence and national self-determination from colonial structures. We further pledge to campaign in the ranks of U.S. labor to divest from Israeli bonds and sever ties between the AFL-CIO and the Histadrut.” To host a local event with delegation members, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Labor in Palestine: Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law (IMEMC)
Thousands of Palestinians, on Tuesday, demonstrated outside of a government building, in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, against the Palestinian Authority’s approval of a new law many believe fails to provide adequate protection for workers. . . . Weeks earlier, a teachers’ strike brought the largest public demonstrations against the PA in years.
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.
“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.