Category Archives: United Electrical Workers (UE)

NLRB Upholds Union’s Right To Endorse BDS Against Israel (In These Times)

In These Times
WEDNESDAY, JUL 27, 2016, 6:38 PM

NLRB Upholds Union’s Right To Endorse BDS Against Israel

BY ALEX KANE

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has upheld a decision to dismiss a complaint against the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) for endorsing a boycott of Israel.

The move is a victory for advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which targets Israel over alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians. Earlier this year, the NLRB ruled against Shurat HaDin, the Israeli legal center that brought the complaint seeking an injunction against UE’s decision to endorse boycotting Israel. The latest decision was in response to an appeal filed by Shurat HaDin.

UE endorsed the call for BDS at its August convention, making it the first national union in the United States to support the boycott. The resolution denounced Israeli racism and wars in the Gaza Strip and supported an end of U.S. military aid to Israel.

Palestinian trade unions have appealed for solidarity from unions around the world, urging them to endorse the BDS movement, which calls for an end to the Israeli occupation, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Labor unions in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Uruguay, and Canada have endorsed BDS. And in addition to UE, a handful of labor union chapters in the United States has joined the call for a boycott of Israel. These unions have joined a growing movement, modeled on the fight against South African apartheid, to isolate Israel.

In October, two months after UE endorsed BDS, Shurat HaDin filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. The group alleged that the UE decision to endorse BDS violated U.S. labor law, claiming the union encouraged its members to engage in an illegal “secondary boycott.”

Under U.S. labor law, a union cannot encourage others who work at “neutral employers”—those outside of a direct dispute between a union and its employer—to strike or stop work. In a statement, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin, said it was a “violation of American labor law for the union to encourage its members to cease doing business with Israelis and Israeli companies.”

But the NLRB disagreed. The labor board first dismissed the complaint in January. After Shurat HaDin appealed, the NLRB ruled in May that the union’s endorsement of BDS was not a “signal or request” to employees “to engage in a work stoppage against their employers,” which would be illegal.

(The union only recently commented on the NLRB’s decision because it was waiting for the results of a Freedom of Information Act request on the case. It still has not received a response.)

“As a result of the NLRB decision, it really allows for any other unions to go through and endorse the BDS movement without having to deal with … attacks from organizations that are trying to curb political speech,” Andrew Dinkelaker, general secretary-treasurer of UE, said this month.

Dinkelaker added that the pro-BDS decision was in line with the union’s history of international solidarity, like its support for an end to U.S. aid to apartheid South Africa.

Shurat HaDin did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story.

BDS activists hope that the boycott Israel movement grows inside labor unions. So far, advocates for BDS have found the most success within graduate student unions.

In December 2014, United Auto Workers-2865, which represents thousands of teaching assistants and other student workers at the University of California, overwhelmingly endorsed BDS. In November 2015, the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations called on the national union to boycott and divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. And this year, graduate student unions at New York University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Massachusetts endorsed the boycott. The union endorsements of the BDS movement came after actions like August 2014’s “Block the Boat,” in which dockworkers in Oakland, California, heeding the calls of Palestine solidarity activists, refused to unload Israeli goods for four days in protest of Israel’s assault on Gaza that summer.

But as boycott advocates establish a foothold within labor unions, opponents of BDS have gone on the attack against the movement. In addition to the Shurat HaDin charge against UE, a group of anti-BDS members of UAW-2865 appealed the chapter’s endorsement of the boycott. In December 2015, the parent UAW International nullified the chapter’s decision.

Liz Jackson, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal, a group that defends the right to advocate for Palestine in the United States, said that Shurat HaDin’s complaint against UE “never had legs to begin with” because it had no legal merit.

But Jackson said the legal complaint was just one part of a bigger strategy to combat the BDS movement.

“They clearly are bringing obviously frivolous lawsuits and legal complaints to scare supporters of BDS and drain resources,” Jackson added. “They use legal threats as part of the strategy to persuade people in the upper echelons of institutional power structures to crush [BDS].”

Alex Kane is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties.

US labor board affirms union’s right to boycott Israel (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

US labor board affirms union’s right to boycott Israel

ue-august-2015

The United Electrical Workers backed BDS in a vote of delegates at the union’s August 2015 national convention in Baltimore. (via Facebook)

The National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed its dismissal of charges against the United Electrical workers union because of its support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The NLRB is the US federal agency that enforces the country’s trade union legislation.

In August 2015, the 30,000-strong United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, known as UE, became only the second national trade union in the US to back BDS by a vote of delegates at its annual convention in Baltimore.

In October, Shurat HaDin, a lawfare group with ties to Israel’s Mossad spying and assasination agency, filed a complaint against the union, claiming that its support for BDS amounted to a violation of the law against secondary boycotts.

In January, the labor board dismissed the complaint, stating it had investigated and found “there is insufficient evidence to establish a violation” of the law.

Shurat HaDin appealed the dismissal, but on 26 May the labor board’s general counsel issued a letter that the union says reaffirms the earlier decision to throw the case out.

Victory for BDS

UE national president Peter Knowlton welcomed the decision in a press release on Friday.

Knowlton said that UE had in the past “withstood attempts by the US government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.”

“The NLRB’s decision is a victory for the growing BDS movement across the US, which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government,” he added.

“As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by US taxpayers,” Knowlton said.

The NLRB decision will encourage rank and file members in other unions who are battling bosses for the right to express and organize support for Palestinian rights.

The UE resolution that Shurat HaDin tried and failed to overturn calls on the US to end all military aid to Israel and for pressure on Israel “to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees.”

Frivolous lawsuits

Unable to stem the growing grassroots support for Palestinian rights, and particularly the BDS movement, Israel and its surrogates have increasingly turned to repressive legislation and litigation.

Last month, Brooke Goldstein explained that the purpose of such lawsuits was to “make the enemy pay” – that “enemy” being comprised of practically anyone who organizes for Palestinian rights.

Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel group founded with the support of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has also asserted that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian person.”

In April, several plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association, aimed at forcing it to undo its 2013 vote to boycott Israeli institutions.

John K. Wilson, an editor of Academe Blog, a publication of the American Association of University Professors, described the lawsuit as “frivolous litigation designed for the sole purpose of getting the government to suppress the freedom of speech of a private organization.”

But just this month, a one-person outfit called the Zionist Advocacy Center filed yet another frivolous lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who are not even members of the American Studies Association.

Radhika Sainath, an attorney for the legal advocacy group Palestine Legal, told Inside Higher Ed that the complaint is “a meritless lawsuit based on a hypothetical injury that will be thrown out of court in a heartbeat.”

NLRB Confirms Legality of Union Support for Boycott of Israel; Union Condemns Political Attacks on BDS (UE)

View in searchable PDF format: Press Release_NLRB dismisses BDS charge against union

Screenshot 2016-07-22 16.26.35

NLRB Confirms Legality of Union Support for Boycott of Israel;
Union Condemns Political Attacks on BDS

July 22, 2016 – For Immediate Release
Media contacts: Peter Knowlton, UE General President, 774-264-0110
Al Hart, UE News Managing Editor, alan.hart@ueunion.org, 419-450-6994

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reaffirmed its dismissal an unfair labor practice charge brought by an Israeli law firm against a U.S. union, the United Electrical Workers, over its support of protests against Israeli policies including the union’s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) movement.

At its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20, 2015, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) adopted a resolution endorsing the BDS movement to pressure Israel to negotiate peace with the Palestinians and end the occupation. UE is the first national U.S. union to endorse BDS. The full resolution is attached.

On October 23, the Israeli law firm Shurat Hadin filed a charge with the NLRB alleging that UE’s resolution violated the prohibition in U.S. labor law against “secondary boycotts.” The union disputed the charge, arguing that Shurat Hadin’s action was an attempt to interfere with the First Amendment rights of the union and its members to express opinions on political and international issues, and also that the Israeli firm’s allegation were factually untrue. On January 12, Region 6 of the NLRB dismissed the charge. Shurat HaDin then appealed to the Office of the General Counsel of the NLRB, and on May 26 that office denied the appeal.

UE National President Peter Knowlton says the union “welcomes the labor board’s decision” to reject, for a second time, Shurat Hadin’s charge. He said that UE in the past had “withstood attempts by the U.S. government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.” Knowlton added, “The NLRB’s decision is a victory for the growing BDS movement across the U.S., which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government. As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.”

UE General President Peter Knowlton commented: “Since the 1980s, the delegates to our national conventions have voted to support equal rights and even-handed treatment of Palestinian and Israeli people as the only path to peace. At the 2015 convention UE delegates voted to support BDS because of the atrocities committed by the Israeli government in Gaza in 2014, and the increasing discrimination and repression of Palestinian people and workers by the Israeli government and military. Our U.S. tax dollars, in excess of $3 billion a year, are funding this system of apartheid, and we must do more to change it.”

UE is very concerned about attacks on the BDS movement by U.S. politicians who advocate or have adopted resolutions, executive orders, and statutes targeting the BDS movement, said Knowlton. He pointed out that the 2016 party platforms of both the Democrats and Republicans condemn BDS. “These are unconstitutional attacks on free speech,” said the union president. “Boycotts have been an essential component of non-violent struggles for workers’ rights and other struggles for justice throughout our history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the modern Civil Rights Movement. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s helped end the apartheid system in that country.”

“UE opposes any legislation and legislative resolutions that outlaw or condemn legitimate criticism of Israel and support for BDS, or attempt to sanction individuals, organizations, companies or governments simply because they have legitimately criticized Israel or supported BDS. We will support legal and political challenges to overturn such attacks on fundamental civil liberties.”

UE is an independent, member-run union, with headquarters in Pittsburgh, representing 30,000 workers across the country in the private and public sectors. At its five-day convention last August member delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues.

Shurat Hadin is an Israeli organization that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights and critics of Israel, a strategy known as lawfare. Its most infamous case was a 2011 lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter for writing a book critical of Israel, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The suit against Carter failed, as did a suit aimed at censoring Al Jazeera’s reporting. Its attacks on UE began Sept. 2, 2015 when Shurat Hadin wrote a letter to the CEO of the General Electric Company, UE’s largest employer, “warning” GE to “rescind its recently concluded labor agreement” with UE because Shurat Hadin didn’t like the union’s resolution on Israel and Palestine. On July 11, 2016, Shurat HaDin sued Facebook for $1 billion, charging the social media company with insufficiently censoring Palestinians.

The global BDS movement arose from a 2005 call by Palestinian trade unions and human rights groups. UE’s resolution also calls for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel and for U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. With its resolution UE joined the South African labor union confederation COSATU, Unite the Union in Britain and many other labor unions around the world in supporting BDS as a step toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.

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

Update1Huffington Post

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

05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

In terms of labor unions, Vijay Prashad notes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!

Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.48.25Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW
Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!

 

Screenshot 2016-04-26 18.30.03Joint 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.

 

JWJContext: 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.”

 

delegation-birzeitLabor 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 palestine.prison.delegation16@gmail.com

 

socialsecstrike-maanLabor 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.

Analysis: Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’
In a new article, British BDS activists Peter Waterman discusses the hypocrisy of Zionist anti-BDS spokesperson Eric Lee, owner of the widely-read website, LabourStart.

Download: New Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.

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American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine (In These Times)

In These Times
WEDNESDAY, APR 6, 2016, 3:12 PM

American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine

BY JEFF SCHUHRKE

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In an address on Middle East policy last month, Bernie Sanders —the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary—did something virtually unheard of in contemporary U.S. politics when he called for an end to “what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory” by Israel.

The only candidate to skip the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, Sanders instead delivered a speech from Utah in which he acknowledged that “today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians” due to the occupation.

“For a presidential candidate to break from the mold, like it seems maybe Sanders is doing, and to talk about the fact that the occupation needs to end, is something that’s exciting to Palestinians,” says Manawel Abdel-Al, a member of the general secretariat of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

“We hope this isn’t just election talk,” he adds. “People were very excited about Barack Obama as well and we didn’t get much progress. But we’re hopeful.”

Abdel-Al—who lives in occupied East Jerusalem—is visiting Chicago this week at the invitation of the United Electrical Workers (UE), the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and Jewish Voice for Peace to enlist the support of the U.S. labor movement in the Palestinian liberation struggle. He addressed standing-room-only audiences of rank-and-file unionists at last weekend’s Labor Notes conference and again on Tuesday night at the local UE Hall.

A machine repair technician by trade, Abdel-Al has been a union activist for three decades. He tells In These Times that throughout their history, Palestinian trade unions have always waged a “two-part” battle. “We represent workers in the class struggle for socioeconomic rights, but also in the national, political struggle for freedom and independence,” he says, noting that the Palestinian labor movement has managed to endure despite a century of repression and upheaval under British, Jordanian, and Israeli control.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU represents 14 private sector unions in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, Abdel-Al says the PGFTU negotiates collective bargaining agreements with employers and successfully convinced the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) to pass a minimum wage law in 2012. The union federation is now calling for the P.A. to implement social welfare policies by next year.

Meanwhile, over 25,000 public schoolteachers (not affiliated with PGFTU) staged a one-month strike earlier this year to call for the P.A. to honor a promised pay raise that had been “left on the backburner for three years,” Abdel-Al says. The strike ended last month after President Mahmoud Abbas intervened and promised back pay and a 10 percent wage increase.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU is not recognized by the Israeli government, leaving unprotected the approximately 92,000 West Bank Palestinians who regularly cross into and out of Israel and Israeli settlements for work. Abdel-Al explains that while many of these workers have legal permits to be employed in Israel, many others are unauthorized workers—hired under-the-table by Israeli employers—and face extreme exploitation. “When they’re injured on the job, they’re simply taken to the closest border checkpoint and left there. The employer disappears.”

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Abdel-Al at Chicago’s Haymarket monument. (Jeff Schuhrke)

Regardless of their legal status, Abdel-Al says that all Palestinian workers in Israel, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, face discrimination, arbitrary dismissal, low pay, and a host of other issues on the job.  “All we want is freedom from oppression,” he says, asking U.S. unionists to do whatever they can to help their fellow workers in Palestine.

Heeding this call, last August, UE became the first national U.S. labor union to endorse Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)—a global, nonviolent movement to protest Israeli human rights violations inspired by the successful efforts of civil society groups to pressure South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s.

While the activist network Labor for Palestine has been pushing U.S. unions to get behind BDS for the past decade, serious strides have only been made in the two years since Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza, which killed 1,462 civilians. In December 2014, BDS was endorsed by University of California graduate student workers with UAW Local 2865—a vote that was controversially nullified by the UAW’s International Executive Board earlier this year. Following Local 2865 and UE’s lead, the Connecticut AFL-CIO also passed a resolution in favor of BDS late last year.

BDS is gaining traction within the international labor movement as well, with support from unions in South Africa, the UK, Norway, Brazil, and elsewhere. Last April, it was endorsed by Canada’s Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), which represents 325,000 public and private sector workers in Quebec.

“I think BDS is a powerful tool to educate people on what is happening in Palestine,” Nathalie Guay, coordinator of CSN’s international relations, tells In These Times. Guay, who helped connect the PGFTU and UE, hopes that more North American unions will not only endorse BDS, but also send their members on delegations to Palestine to learn about the situation first-hand. “Every single person who goes there comes back as an activist for Palestine. We need more of that.”

Noting the growing international influence of unions from the global south, including Brazil’s pro-BDS Central Única dos Trabalhadores, Guay predicts the international labor movement will continue to increase its support for Palestine in the years to come. “I think there will be some evolution,” she says.

This evolution is already evident in the International Trade Union Confederation—a global organization composed of the world’s major labor federations—which has issued increasingly critical statements of Israel since the 2014 assault on Gaza.

“We believe statements are not enough and hope the ITUC will change its policies in a more definitive way to help end the occupation,” Abdel-Al says. “But no matter how small, this is a positive change.”

Abdel-Al took time out of his busy schedule this week to visit the Haymarket memorial—a tribute to martyred Chicago unionists who were hanged in 1887 as a result of their activism in support of the 8-hour workday. “This is the birthplace of the worldwide labor movement. Around the world, we celebrate labor on May 1st because of what happened in Chicago.”

He wants U.S. labor activists to remember that occupied Palestinians are also oppressed workers. “Any activism, any support for us would be in accordance with a slogan that is well known by the working class everywhere—workers of the world, unite! Through solidarity and willpower, workers can make changes and bring about the achievement of rights for persecuted and oppressed people everywhere.”

Jeff Schuhrke is a Summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times.

UE Win at NLRB: Harassing Political Charge by Israeli Law Firm Dismissed (United Electrical Workers)

United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (Various Employers) Case 06-CC-162236 (NLRB Advice Memorandum)

View in PDF format: 06_CC_162236_12_21_15_.pdf

NLRB

US trade union undeterred by legal assault over Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada)

BDS and UE logos

Electronic Intifada

US trade union undeterred by legal assault over Israel boycott

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) says it is unfazed by an Israeli group’s legal attack over its vote last summer to back the Palestinian call to boycott Israel.

In August, the 30,000-strong UE became only the second national trade union in the US to back boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) by a vote of delegates at its annual convention.

This week, Shurat HaDin filed a complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board to try to force the union to abandon its decision.

Shurat HaDin is an Israeli organization linked to Israel’s Mossad spying and assassination agency that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights, a strategy known as lawfare.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Shurat HaDin is accusing UE of violating the US National Labor Relations Act which “prohibits labor unions from encouraging workers to take part in boycotts during the course of their work duties, commonly known as ‘secondary boycotts.’”

The complaint alleges that supporters of BDS are “singling out” Israel – a frequent charge made by anti-Palestinian groups – while making “no attempt to boycott countries or entities which hang homosexuals; torture political opposition; or deny voting rights to their citizenry,” the Post states.

Shurat HaDin is seeking “injunctive relief” – a judge’s order – to prevent UE from “engaging in these unfair labor practices, which single out and discriminate against Israelis and Israeli companies,” the Post adds.

The UE resolution that Shurat HaDin is seeking to overturn calls on the US to end all military aid to Israel and for pressure on Israel “to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees.”

The complaint was filed by Shurat HaDin’s director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and New York attorney David Abrams.

But the union is confident that the anti-Palestinian group’s effort to circumvent its democratic process and solidarity will fail.

“There is a long tradition of nonviolent protest against human rights abuses that includes boycotts,” UE’s director of international strategies Leah Fried told The Electronic Intifada.

Fried added: “This attempt to end that peaceful protest with a charge filed at the National Labor Relations Board is not founded in law and will surely be dismissed.”

This week, the BDS National Committee, the broad Palestinian coalition that leads the BDS movement, called for an international “wave of solidarity” in face of intensified Israeli violence against Palestinians under occupation.

US Labor and the Boycott of Israel (SWANA Region Radio, September 14, 2015)

kpfk-logo

SWANA Radio Intifada (MP3 download)

9/14/2015 SWANA REGION RADIO 3:30-4:00pm: US Labor and the Boycott of Israel

SWANA REGION RADIO

Voices from Kolkota to Casablanca

Voices of struggle, Voices for change

Monday, September 14, 3:30-4:00PM

KPFK/Pacifica Radio 90.7 fm, Los Angeles

Streaming at kpfk.org or http://kpfk.org/ and available on audio
archive for 90 days at http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=rintifada

US Labor and the Boycott of Israel

At its its national convention in Baltimore this August, UE, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers endorsed the worldwide BDS movement – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – to pressure Israel to end its apartheid over the Palestinians just as similar tactics helped to end South African apartheid in the 1980s. UE represents more than 30,000 workers across the country in a range of private and public sector occupations.and is now the first U.S. national union to endorse BDS.  Today we talk to Michael Letwin, co-founder of Labor for Palestine, about this remarkable victory for the BDS movement.  We also discuss the progress being made on the cultural boycott and the current campaign to persuade Kanye West to respect the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel by canceling his planned September 30 concert in Israel.

Guest: Michael Letwin is a public defender in Brooklyn, New York; and a veteran Vietnam antiwar, South Africa anti-apartheid, and racial justice activist since the 1960s. He is former president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325(1990-2002); and a co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)(2001), Labor for Palestine(2004) and Jews for Palestinian Right of Return(2013). He is affiliated with Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and MENA Solidarity Network US; and a member of the Organizing Collective of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Letwin was a member of an attorney/activist delegation to the West Bank and 1948 Palestine (2007),and  a featured speaker at a Palestine solidarity conference of the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions (2010).

He helped launch the successful campaign for Stevie Wonder to withdraw from a Los Angeles fundraiser for the Israeli military (2012), and was active in both UAW 2865’s adoption of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)and Block the Boat’s campaign to prevent Israeli Zim Line ships from docking at U.S. ports(2014).  His writing on Palestine includes “Labor Zionism and the Histadrut” (2010) and “The Jewish Labor Committee and Apartheid Israel” (2010).

Click on the link below to view peition from Jews for Palestinian Right of Return:

https://www.change.org/p/mediarelations-unitedtalent-com-tell-kanye-west-don-t-be-heartless-don-t-play-apartheid-israel

Hosted  by David Lloyd 

 of

SWANA (South and West Asia and North Africa) Collective, KPFK.