Category Archives: U.S. Labor News

Testimonies of the popular rebellion in USA; interview with Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine New York (La Prensa Obrera, Argentina, June 7, 2020)

La Prensa Obrera, 7 de junio de 2020


“The demands of the movement will clash with the Democratic Party”

Testimonies of the popular rebellion in USA; interview with Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine New York

Por Redacción

-What has the conflict been like this week in your area?

-In New York there’s been, as throughout this country, a mass revolt. Tens of thousands of people in the street, multiracial, significantly and confronting extreme police violent as are people throughout this country and throughout the world. On the one hand the terrible brutality of George Floyd’s murder and the murder of so many other black and brown people is almost insufferable to watch. But at the same time, this rebellion that’s happening now is so inspiring. The courage and the militancy that’s out on the streets and the understanding that this is not a question of a few bad police apples or something that is unordinary, but rather something that is quite common and relates to the legacy of slavery and of capitalism in this country.

The militancy and the radicalism of the demands that have come out of the movement. To defund the police, dismantle police, abolish prisons. Not that everybody has those positions. But nonetheless the widespread demand for those changes to the system itself. And not just changes, but an end to the system in many cases. Whatever people mean by that, it’s impressive and striking.

-What reaction have you seen in the movement to Trump’s announcement of the army being on call as a means to upscale the repression?

-It’s interesting I think that there hasn’t been a retreat of the protesters in the face of that threat or of the existing mass violence that’s coming from the state. Thousands and thousands of people are out in the street. They may be more than before. The police have been able to inflict tremendous brutality on the movement, but they have not been able to back the movement down at all. If anything, the brutality that the state has inflicted against the protesters has only reinforces people’s determination to be out and to resist martial law, to resist the curfews, to resist the ongoing daily violence, and the specific violence that’s being launched against them by the police.

And, also I think it’s interesting that despite the lipservice that liberal politicians have given to the movement, they in fact are the ones who are helping to orchestrate the mass violence. So, in New York City, for example, which has a liberal democratic mayor, the violence that is being rained down on the protest is coming directly from that administration. I think that deepens everyone’s understanding, if they didn’t already know, that despite differences in rhetoric from Trump, from Biden, to in our case, mayor Di Blasio in New York City, and across the political spectrum, whatever politicians may be saying, their deeds speak for themselves.

When they send out police to brutalize protestors, as happened in New York City repeatedly, including last night (Wednesday June 3rd), that is not an aberration, that comes from the top. Those are orders that go out from the administration. Whether that’s Trump, or the governors, or mayors. This kind of violence is systemic, and it’s organized and it’s coordinated. We saw this with Occupy Wall Street almost ten years ago, when the mayors were given the order by the Obama administration to shut down Occupy. That happened everywhere, very systemically, across all political lines. And we’re seeing the same thing now in regards to repression against the movement.

The strength of the movement is also clear from the fact that the politicians, and even the former defense secretary, has to give lipservice to the movement. You see these pictures of police taking the knee. Now, that’s obviously disingenuous. That’s completely ridiculous. I mean, there may be a few police officers who actually feel that way, but when the top uniformed police chief in New York City takes the knee as he did the other day, that’s simply an attempt to confuse people about the role of the police. It’s also interesting that the former Defense Secretary James Mattis, has been criticizing Trump for calling out the troops. It’s significant because he’s thinking “are the troops going to, in fact, obey orders to attack and, if necessary, fire on the protestors?”. Because, unlike the police, the army and the national guard come from the same working class communities as the protestors do. The number of people of color in the military is over 40%. And, if you go back to the 1960’s you see that there were examples where black troops called out to repress protests in the cities refused to deploy, most notably in the case of the Fort Hood 43, a group of black troops who refused to go to  Chicago in 1968 to shoot and brutalize protestors.

I think that the ruling class is very aware that this is a concern, that the military will have absolutely no credibility with anyone if they engage in that kind of behavior. Which is not to say that they won’t. But it shows the power of the movement that they have to pay lipservice to those kinds of concerns.

-What are the most important social and political sectors that make up the demonstrations?

-I think it’s a confluence of different forces. At the heart are black youth in particular, who everywhere have been at the forefront of the rebellion, as has been the case going back to the 1960’s and even beyond.  What is different about this particular time, say from 1968 (this is the biggest mass rebellion in the states since 1968), is that though there was a large movement of radicalized whites and other sectors, against racism and against the war, black people in the rebellion were largely segregated and kept separate from the rest of society.

I think a major difference in this rebellion is that though it’s in the same scale and echoes that rebellion in 1968 following the murder of Martin Luther King, it’s drawing out huge numbers of white people, many of whom have been involved in other protests in the past, for Black Lives or Occupy, or against Trump, or any number of things that have been going on.

So when you see the images of these protests you are struck by all these forces coming together to support black people, to oppose the system, to call for radical change. Sometimes openly, explicitly anticapitalist in its expressions, and certainly against the institutional racism that the George Floyd murder reflects.

And, that’s quite a different thing than you would have seen in 1968. I remember the rebellion in 1968. I was 12 years old, I had been marching all my life with my parents.  We had seen police violence. But if you look at the newsreels from 1968 you will see a much more segmented society. And even though today’s society is totally segregated in many ways, these protests have somehow overcome that to come together on a multiracial basis against the system itself. And every time the police attack and every time the military is brought out and threatened with it only deepens the radicalization and the understanding in the movement, that these are not aberrations, this is not simply a problem of retraining police or anything like that, which we’ve heard talked of in the past sometimes. Rather there is a call to demolish and deconstruct the police, to end the police, to abolish prisons. Again, I’m not talking about everyone, but these ideas are widely circulated. They’re even reflected in the corporate media. Which is a tribute to the power of the movement. So I think there’s a growing awareness among protestors of the power of mass mobilization. And how that has immediately changed the political terrain, overnight, throughout this country. Of course that coincides and overlaps with Covid-19. The tremendous impact of Covid-19, especially on poor and working class people. Black victims of Covid-19 are grossly disproportionate to the proportion of black people in society. So on every level this is bringing together these concerns and awareness.

-What are the main slogans and demands that the movement is calling for?

-Defund police I think has become one of the most prominent single demands. Together of course, with the demands to prosecute police and to convict police. Not just these police, but all police who are committing brutality, which is to say, police as an institution. But, as far as a program, we’re seeing defund the police emerge. This is a movement where so much is decentralized, this doesn’t reflect a high level of organization and structure, the movement for Black Lives is the closest thing to a centralized voice. If you look at their website and the things they are putting up “defund the police” is the major demand that they have put out. Now, the question is, what does that mean? People have different views. Does it mean reduce funding to the police but keep the police as an institution? There are a wide range of opinions. Certainly many poor people and black people are fearful that if we abolish police they will be unprotected from daily violence within the community, or whatever. I don’t want to overstate. I’m sure many people feel that way. However, it’s significant that if we look back to before Black Lives Matter emerging out of Ferguson in 2014, and you look back to earlier movements against police abuse, even in the last 20 years. For example during the protests that took place after the murder of Amadou Diallo in 1999,a young black man who was unarmed, shot at 41 times by the police. He was killed, outright. And many of the demands in those protests were for much more limited things, for most people. Arrest, prosecute, more training for police not to be violent and things along those lines. You don’t hear any of that now. You don’t hear about training police or more community based policing, that’s all gone. And I think that’s a good thing, because even in 1999 these were not going to be meaningful demands. You were not hearing these demands to abolish or defund police in the movement as a whole.  Now you’re hearing it across the board.

It’s opened the door to a discussion. What does this really reflect? What is the point of the police as an institution? There is a widespread understanding that the police as an institution is a criminal enterprise, that it is a source of violence in our society. If the military comes out and does the same thing, the same will apply to them. That’s why the former defense secretary says “let’s not go down this road”. That’s why the current defense secretary is saying “we’re not going to mobilize troops right now, because we don’t need to do that yet”. It’s an attempt to insulate the military from being viewed also as an institution of repression and oppression, both at home and abroad. And it’s also an attempt to make sure that there’s not a breakdown in the military in the rank and file as happened during the Vietnam  years, both in Vietnam among black and other poor troops, with mass mutiny that took place and helped bring down the American war machine during the war, and made it impossible to deploy troops in the cities against urban rebellion on an ongoing basis.

-The rebellion is evidently centered on racism and police brutality, how big a role do you think the social and economic catastrophe being lived plays in it?

There is an intimate connection. Some people have called it a perfect storm. In 1968 of course there was the war, there was mass violence against black people, there was very high unemployment in black and brown communities. But there wasn’t a pandemic. So this pandemic of Covid-19, together with the underlying, ongoing pandemic of racism and anti-blackness has created the grounds for this kind of radical analysis that people are bringing to these protests, and to what they’re saying about this country.

The fact that the system has proven itself so clearly to be unable and unwilling to deal with any of these things. What Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism”. Even at the height of this pandemic, there is no pretense that the state is able or even trying to do anything meaningful to protect people. Especially in the most vulnerable sections of society. Particularly black people, who are just viewed as expendable.

It’s not hard to imagine what Trump and mucho of the ruling class are thinking. In regards to Covid-19. Something like “that’s fine, if this helps us get rid of large numbers of black and brown people, and old people of all colors and “baby boomers”  who we would have to have on social security, and so on”. So, it makes a lot of sense that they’re not terribly concerned about Covid-19. You see as much being said by the white supremacist right and that’s what’s being discussed. This reflects the same dynamics that went on during Katrina or any other natural disaster that you can think of, regarding the unwillingness and inability of the state to provide the most fundamental public health.

Of course public health in this country almost doesn’t exist. There’s not even the pretense of a national health system. So what you have is privatized, defunded healthcare, save for that which only a few have access to. So that’s part of the context in which this is happening.

And, even before these protests, there’s been growing worker activism especially among the unorganized, like in Amazon, with walkouts over lack of safety conditions regarding Covid-19. I don’t think that’s connected yet in terms of the demands of the movements. But, clearly people are bringing all that awareness, that whether it’s Covid-19 or its institutional racism and police violence, this system breeds these things. This system is not broken, it’s working just the way it’s supposed to.

Capitalism is being shown, perhaps more now than in any moment in living memory, to be completely unable and unwilling to protect even the most fundamental aspects of life, for most people.

-Are you aware of any initiatives to try to coordinate protests or discuss a common platform across the country? 

-I am not aware of a unified attempt to do that. Of course, it’s going on. There are discussions happening everywhere, from the protests, to online. Again, the movement for Black Lives is an attempt to do that, and a couple of years ago they issued a platform which is wide-ranging and essentially comes across as anti-capitalist. It includes things ranging from “abolish prisons” to  the need for healthcare and housing and employment.

Interestingly one of the key things that came out of Ferguson and the previous Black Lives Matter movement was a growing identification and solidarity with Palestine. Of course there’s solidarity in many directions and it’s not the only example.  The Black-Palestine connection has grown, it’s increasingly seen as critical, because of the great similarities of their oppression, and the fact that the perpetrators of that oppression are the same governments and the same system.

It reclaims a tradition that goes back at least to the 1960’s of black support for Palestine in this country coming from Malcolm X, coming from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, coming from the Black Panther Party, coming from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit, who made those connections and who insisted that that connection had to be stressed. That in turn has been reflected in Palestinian support for black uprisings in this country, particularly in regards to Ferguson and the current uprisings. There’s been strong support from Palestine. The understanding is that although this country didn’t need the Israelis to teach them brutality, racism and oppression, the ties between the American and Israeli regimes are particularly clear in things like coordination between police forces in Israel and US, the increased militarization of police in US and of course the 3.2 billion dollars a year that the US government gives to the Israeli apartheid regime every year.

So there’s the intifada in Palestine and what is essentially a domestic intifada in this country now, though it’s usually not called by that name; and there’s a growing understanding that these resistances are connected, and that the right to resist is connected.

-What do you think is the perspective for this movement to defeat the Trump government and its repressive onslaught?

-Well, that remains to be seen. I’ve lived through the last six decades and have seen many movements rise and fall. Under repression and also internal divisions and the combination of the two. I don’t pretend to know where things are going to go. I do take heart from the tremendous resistance that’s going on. The fact that the police and the military are not able to put this back in the bottle, at least so far. If anything it’s causing some cracks in the ruling class’s rhetoric and that shows the power of the movement. I believe the key is to build alliances across all sections of the oppressed, of the working class.

Unions in this country are very weak, not just in their numbers but in the politics of their leadership. Although some unions have issued statements against the murder of George Floyd and against broader institutional racism and violence, you don’t see the unions as institutions or their leaders in the front of this. To the extent that they have been visible, they have not articulated radical visions of what needs to be done.

Union members are out on the streets, just by virtue of the sheer number of people out resisting. But not the unions as institutions and this will not happen from the top, it has to happen from below just like everything else. Because union leaderships are compromised.

One of the issues that comes up is the unions relationship to police unions. Police unions are among the most racist institutions in this country. The debate of whether police are simply workers and should be unionized versus those of us who feel that police are not workers, police are simply agents of the ruling class. They’ve always been that and they have their roots in the slave patrols of the 19th century and are inherently racist and violent towards the population. Nonetheless within the AFL-CIO, the main union in our country, there are unionized police officers who have been allowed to be a part of the labor movement, even if just in name. That has to end.

Police do not belong in labor. Police are not workers. They are an inherently oppressive institution. Unions need to make that clear. I think that that’s one of the demands that union members who are involved in these protests will be bringing to their unions.

-Do you see any debates regarding advancing towards independent organizations of the working class, outside the traditional bipartisan system?

-I haven’t seen much organized discussion about that. Discussion on trying to set up a Labor Party again or whatever you want to call it. An independent third party of the working class and the oppressed.

One of the big debates will be how to respond to the neoliberal leadership of the Democratic Party’s attempt to coopt the movement into the Biden campaign. Biden who on the one hand is saying he opposes the murder of George Floyd and on the other suggests police should be shooting people in the legs. Exactly what Israeli police do to cripple Palestinians protestors in Gaza, every day.

So, the major political question that’s going to arise is, should the movement essentially fold into the democrats’ campaign against Trump? That’s obviously what Biden and Hillary Clinton and so on are trying to do.

Hillary Clinton issued a great tweet the other day. “Trump has called on troops to repress peaceful protests in this country for a photo op.” It sounded great. But it ended with “Vote”.  For Biden, obviously. Last night Barack Obama was on TV and sent a similar message. These are all people who have reserved their greatest criticisms for the left, for black youths, for the Black Lives Matter movement for “not being willing to work within the system”.

There’s nothing new about these debates. This goes back in this country to the 1930’s and earlier. What relationship should mass movements have to the Democratic Party. There will be different views in the mass movement about that. There will be some who are susceptible to those arguments, who will think that it’s great that they are coming out and saying this. And I think it’s great because they’re being forced to come out and say these things in support of Black Lives.

However, it’s a two-edged sword, because they will attempt to demobilize the movement into voting. And whether people vote or not is less important than whether they demobilize the movement. Clearly some people are going to vote as a protest for anyone who is going against Trump. That’s sort of inevitable. But the real question is if the movement can give rise to new institutions, anti-capitalist institutions, independent and opposed to the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party.

I don’t see a lot of that being discussed in the protests right now. But the demands that the movement is giving rise to clearly are going to clash what the neoliberal Democratic Party wants to do. Cornell West has been talking a lot about this in his interviews about the rebellion. About the attempts by the neoliberal Democrats to coopt and demobilize the movement. That’s the discussion going forward.  

Letter to the University of Michigan President Regarding John Cheney-Lippold (AAUP)

Letter to the University of Michigan President Regarding John Cheney-Lippold

The AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance has sent a letter to the president of the University of Michigan responding to the university’s statement that it will discipline professor John Cheney-Lippold for his decision not to write a letter of recommendation for a student. Cheney-Lippold was sent a letter by the interim dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, notifying him of actions that she had taken as a result of her determination that his “conduct ha[d] fallen far short of the University’s and College’s expectation for how LSA faculty interact and treat students.”

From AAUP’s letter:

The Association’s interest in the case of Professor Cheney-Lippold stems from our longstanding commitment to academic freedom and tenure, the basic tenets of which are set forth in the enclosed 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.That document, a joint formulation of the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, has received the endorsement of more than 250 educational and professional organizations. . . .

. . . [c]harges that may lead to the imposition of severe sanctions are to be preceded by an informal inquiry conducted by a duly constituted faculty committee charged with determining whether proceedings for imposing sanctions should be undertaken. Following such a determination, AAUP-supported standards require an administration to demonstrate adequate cause for imposing a severe sanction in a hearing of record before an elected faculty body.

Click here to download the full letter to the University of Michigan

File:
Michigan-Cheney-Lippold.pdf

Publication Date:
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

AAUP, AFT, Rutgers Faculty Union Oppose DOE Investigation

AAUP, AFT and Rutgers Faculty Union Oppose Education Department Investigation 

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, American Association of University Professors President Rudy Fichtenbaum and Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Deepa Kumar issued the following joint statement in response to the Trump administration’s probe into anti-Semitism at Rutgers University:

“We are currently living in a period when racist and xenophobic hatred is being seen more and more on college campuses. The events in Charlottesville, Va., during the summer of 2017 are seared in our memory, but the issue remains: Earlier week, anti-Semitic fliers were plastered around the campus of University of California, Davis; Sacramento City College was defaced with swastikas; and the president of the United States continues to claim that George Soros is funding his opposition. In light of that, we would expect this administration—particularly the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights—to use its limited resources to investigate serious offenses that threaten the safety and civil rights of students on these campuses. 

“Instead, the department has chosen to reopen a 7-year-old case and investigate in particular an allegation that only certain students were charged fees to attend an event organized by a pro-Palestinian group called Never Again for Anyone. This event brought together people of all religions and activists from both sides, including Holocaust survivors, to discuss the nuances of a complicated issue. It is exactly the type of open dialogue we should be encouraging on our college campuses. The initial claim that any criticism of Israel and its policies toward Palestinians—at this event or any other—is anti-Semitic, was mistaken, and the initial investigation of the incident by the Department of Education under the Obama administration said just that.

“Now, years later, the DeVos Education Department is trying to use the Office for Civil Rights to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. This is a very dangerous move, as what happened on the Rutgers campus seven years ago was a free exchange of ideas, expressly allowed by the First Amendment, and such an exchange of ideas should be welcomed on our campuses—even when they’re ideas with which we disagree. Religious bias is far different than a discussion of a nation-state’s policies. 

“We are very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in America. What we cannot countenance, however, is the Trump and DeVos administration attempting to equate advocacy for Palestinians with anti-Semitism. That is dead wrong. Our unions are committed to both the free expression of ideas and to challenging racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism on our campuses. The fight against hate is undermined when Trump administration officials attempt to equate political debate with racial, ethnic or religious intolerance. If our institutions of higher learning cannot provide space for open political debate, then democracy will wither even more under this administration.”

###

 

DSA BDS Resolution

DSA BDS Resolution

The Resolution of the Democratic Socialists for Justice in Palestine to the 2017 DSA National Convention

Whereas, on July 9, 2005 all major Palestinian civil society groups, including all major trade unions, issued an open letter calling for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights (BDS Call);

Whereas, July 9, 2005 marked the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice finding that  Israel’s construction of a wall annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank to be illegal;

Whereas, the BDS Call noted one year later, Israel continued “construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision;”

Whereas, according to the BDS Call “all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine;”

Whereas, in light of this failure, Palestinian civil society has asked for global civil society and people of conscience to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it recognized the basic human rights of the Palestinian people by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and; respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194;

Whereas, Palestinian trade unions are unanimous in their support of BDS and all three major Palestinian trade union federations are part of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC);

Whereas, DSA would be joining other US-based groups and unions in supporting BDS, including the United Electrical Workers, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, UAW Locals 2865, 2110, 2322, AFT Local 3220, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, Jewish Voice for Peace, among others;

Whereas, since 1948 Israel has denied the right of return to Palestinian refugees;

Whereas, today there are five million refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees;

Whereas, since 1967 Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights;

Whereas, Israel has engaged in a program of rapacious colonization (“settlements”) of the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

Whereas, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are given the rights of Israeli citizenship, subject to civilian law, and are permitted to drive on roads barred to Palestinians;

Whereas, Palestinians in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, are subjected to military law, including being tried in military courts with a 99% conviction rate, are forced to drive on different roads, go through military checkpoints, are subjected to collective punishment, such as house demolitions, and have their land annexed and colonized to build settlements in which they are forbidden to live;

Whereas, there are today at least 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship;

Whereas, all of the aforementioned constitutes apartheid;

Whereas, since 2007 Israel has maintained a ruthless siege of Gaza, home of 1.9 million Palestinians, including 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, limiting access to food, electricity, and other basic materials, restricting movement, and transforming Gaza into an open air prison;

Whereas, Israel has since the blockage engaged in three wars against Gaza, which included sustained aerial bombing and the use of white phosphorous;

Whereas, since Gaza, is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth any widespread bombing is by its very nature a war against civilians;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has condemned Israeli settlements and its bombings of Gaza;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America already supports “partial BDS” (boycotts of settlement goods);

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has endorsed the Movement For Black Lives Platform, which includes support for BDS;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America and Young Democratic Socialists played an important role in the historic international movement against South African Apartheid, upon which the BDS call is based;

Whereas, BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia;

Whereas, Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, making the US complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights;

Whereas, socialists have a responsibility to side with the oppressed and are committed to their unconditional liberation:

 

BE IT RESOLVED:

  1. Democratic Socialists of America declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights, and self-determination.
  2. Democratic Socialists of America responds to Palestinian Civil Society’s call by fully supporting BDS.
  3. Democratic Socialists of America affirms that any political solution to the ongoing crisis must be premised on the realization of basic human rights, including all rights outlined in the BDS call.
  4. Within 30 days after passing, a copy of this resolution shall be sent to the BNC.

Will Labor Stand for More Limits to Boycott Rights? | Stanley Heller

first published at  www.peacenews.org

Will Labor Stand for More Limits to Boycott Rights? | Stanley Heller

 

About The Author

Stanley Heller Administrator of and writer for Promoting Enduring Peace and hosts “The Struggle” TV News, at www.TheStruggle.org. He can be reached at stanley.heller@pepeace.org.

After the Wagner Act was passed in 1935 trade unions had tremendous freedom in organizing, striking and encouraging act of solidarity. A key tactic was the boycott, where union members asked the public not to buy products made by replacement “scab” labor during strikes, or when a union picket line would confront workers from suppliers and insist they not deliver supplies across a picket line. Sometimes a union would picket the supplier itself or call on the public to boycott the products of the supplier.

In 1947 Congress took up the Taft-Hartley Act. One part of it banned unions from calling for “secondary boycotts” from picketing companies supplying a company that was using scab workers or otherwise causing a worker. Trade unions called the bill the “slave labor” law. They spent a million dollars (roughly $11,000,000 in today’s money) in ads to try to defeat it. It didn’t work. President Truman did veto the bill, but Congress overrode the veto and it became the law.

For years getting rid of Taft-Hartley was a major goal of labor, but after a while trade union leadership just tried to get along with it. Over the decades there were many boycotts called like the grape boycott, Hormel, Farah pants, the boycott of Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, etc. Some helped to win strikes. Other solidarity actions were limited and weak because of Taft-Hartley.

Now a new bill going through Congress is a further threat to boycott rights. On the face of it, the bill doesn’t have anything to do with unions. It would ban people for calling for support of the U.N. or the European Union or any international governmental organization boycott of Israel. The penalties are incredible. The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the bill, says there is a possible penalty of a $250,000 civil fine, a criminal fine up to a million dollars and jail time of up to 20 years in prison!

Why should Congress have any power to limit our free speech right to call for a boycott, whether it’s a cruel government of a foreign country or a rotten company in the U.S. mistreating workers? This limit on boycott rights is outrageous and the penalties are grotesque. You could rob a bank and get less punishment.

Now while you won’t find the words “union” or “labor” in the bill there is a possible direct connection. The International Labour Organization is a U.N. and hence governmental organization. If it called for a boycott of Israel (and many unions around the world have done so), calling for support of the ILO boycott could get you in jail.

Even if there’s no immediate connection with labor, there’s the matter of “precedent,” an event or action that can be used as an example for further action. The right wing assault on unions is picking up. At the start of the year a major anti-worker rights law passed in Kentucky. It is all too believable that if this anti-boycott law concerning Israel passes, one day it will be used as a precedent for a law to ban calling for a boycott of some dear little billionaire whose workers have the gall to walk out for decent pay and working conditions.

So far the big trade unions are ignoring the issue. It’s up to us to educated them. You can contact the “Change to Win” federation at info@changetowin.org. The AFLCIO contact page is here: https://aflcio.org/contact-us. The Teamsters contact page is https://teamster.org/about/contact-teamsters. You can always tweet @aflcio @teamsters @change2win.

There is one trade union that should be sympathetic because it’s already boycotting Israel. The union is the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. One of its activists spoke at a rally for Palestine in Hartford on July 25. Here’s their contact page: https://www.ueunion.org/ueform.html. Best email might be uewashington@ranknfile-ue.org. They’re having a convention in Pittsburgh in August. Maybe they can put forward a resolution against the bill in Congress at their convention.

Of course, if you’re a union member you can make your local union aware of the issue and call on it to bring it up with the folks who do legislation in DC.

(Full disclosure. I’ve been a member of three trade unions, Retail Clerks, Machinists and the American Federation of Teachers, the last one continuously since 1969)

Investigate groups with “Jewish-sounding” names, says Nevada lawmaker (Electronic Intifada)

Investigate groups with “Jewish-sounding” names, says Nevada lawmaker

Despite allegations of dirty tricks by lobbyists, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed an anti-BDS bill into law on 2 June. (via Facebook)

This month, Nevada became the 20th state to adopt legislation against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, after an Israel advocacy organization allegedly made threatening remarks to lawmakers if they opposed the bill.

Meanwhile, The Electronic Intifada has obtained a memo from a Nevada lawmaker to fellow Jewish lawmakers across the United States giving advice on how to fight back against the movement for Palestinian rights – including the Jewish activists who support it.

According to the Las Vegas Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, state assembly member Edgar Flores said he was threatened by the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, which told him that his political career would be ended if he did not support the anti-BDS bill.

Flores was one of only three lawmakers to abstain in a vote on the bill.

Though no other legislators have revealed they were threatened, Seth Morrison, of Jewish Voice for Peace in Las Vegas, suspects Flores was not alone.

Morrison points out that assembly member Skip Daly voted against the bill during a committee meeting, but joined Flores in abstaining for the final vote.

Jewish Voice for Peace in Las Vegas believes that Dillon Hosier, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action lobbyist, secretly recorded private meetings with at least two assembly members.

Morrison outlined these allegations of dirty tactics and intimidation in a letter to the governor, urging him to veto the legislation. But on 2 June, Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law.

Blacklist

The law prohibits the state from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Nevada will now prepare a blacklist of companies that are said to boycott Israel.

Other states that have passed similar laws have included companies on their blacklists that withdrew from Israel for their own economic interests, such as G4S.

The world’s largest security firm, G4S announced it was dumping almost all of its business in Israel following a sustained campaign against its involvement in human rights abuses against Palestinians.

The Nevada bill was opposed by Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Culinary Union, which all argued the bill infringes on constitutional rights to speech and association.

The Culinary Union is one of the largest in Nevada and represents workers in the Las Vegas hotel and casino industry. It also describes itself as the state’s largest immigrant organization.

The union argued that boycotts are a fundamental tool for organizing for justice.

Despite this broad opposition, the state assembly passed the bill 39-0 with 3 abstentions, and the senate voted 19-2 in favor.

The two dissenting senators were Yvanna Cancela and Tick Segerblom, both of whom have records of advocating for civil liberties.

“They are both very progressive and very brave,” JVP’s Morrison told The Electronic Intifada.

Spiegel memo

Less than two weeks after the bill became law, Nevada assembly member Ellen Spiegel sent an internal memo to the National Association of Jewish Legislators listing key lessons to the bill’s success. (The memo is attached below.)

The National Association of Jewish Legislators, of which Spiegel is an officer, has placed combatting BDS on the top of its agenda.

Spiegel writes that even though the bill passed by such wide margins, “it required a lot of work.”

Spiegel encourages direct collaboration with Israel lobby organizations, including the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, the Israel Action Network and The Israel Project.

The Israeli-American Coalition for Action has already spent $50,000 in 2017 to lobby for anti-BDS legislation in Congress – five times as much as it spent last year. It is the lobbying arm of the Israeli-American Coalition, which is backed by wealthy anti-Palestinian donors Adam Milstein and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Spiegel says these groups can “provide back up support throughout the process.”

She claims that the legislation passed in states across the country is “seeking to protect Israel from harm,” and urges advocates to “talk about Israel as a ‘safe haven’ for Jews” and as an “important trading partner.”

But she also encourages lawmakers to advance arguments that Israel should be entitled to keep “contested” land – the occupied West Bank – because it “won” it during the 1967 war.

Opposition research

Significantly, the memo indicates Spiegel’s discomfort with the fact that not all Jewish Americans support the anti-BDS agenda.

She recommends trying to discredit groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, urging lawmakers to “do some research on the people presenting the opposing testimony.”

“If they are members of an organization with a Jewish-sounding name, try to determine whether it really is a Jewish group,” she writes.

Spiegel also suggests that anti-BDS legislation should appear to represent a “bipartisan” consensus and that proponents should “invite the participation of the state’s Jewish and non-Jewish communities.”

Spiegel advises Israel advocates to prepare to answer why all Jews do not support anti-BDS legislation. She suggests invoking the words of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who several years ago expressed opposition to a total boycott of Israel.

But she fails to mention that in the same statement – which was widely criticized by Palestinians – Abbas nonetheless expressed support for boycotting products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to Spiegel, opponents of the anti-BDS bill “spoke with legislators about the importance of using boycotts as free speech and were privately telling African Americans and Latinos that they wouldn’t have equal rights if not for use of boycotts.”

Boycotts did indeed play a major role in the civil rights movement – leading to the landmark 1982 US Supreme Court decision ruling that boycotts intended to bring about social, political and economic change are constitutionally protected free speech.

Seth Morrison says that while he is disappointed the bill passed, he is also energized. He helped found the Las Vegas chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace last year, and says this was the first time that people mobilized to oppose a pro-Israel bill in Nevada.

“We’ve shown legislators that they can’t do things like this without being called out for it.”

Victory! We salute the striking Palestinian prisoners (Labor for Palestine)

May Day Speech NYC

May Day Speech
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325
Union Square NYC, May 1, 2017

*From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!
*Viva, Viva Palestina!

As we gather here today, more than 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners are in their 15th day of a hunger strike against conditions that Amnesty International calls “unlawful and cruel.” Their action is part of a long international tradition, including the hunger strike held last fall by prisoners in the United States.

But the Israeli government — which receives $3.8b/year in U.S. weapons, and closely coordinates with the NYPD and other police agencies that systematically target Black and Brown communities in this country — has branded the strikers “terrorists,” just as the South African apartheid regime once labeled Nelson Mandela and thousands of other political prisoners.

Despite all this, unjust and oppressive regimes — no matter how powerful they may appear — always fall: Jim Crow fell, South African apartheid fell, Zionism will fall.

That’s why, like Biblical Davids, the Palestinian prisoners have answered today’s Goliath by saying: “Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.”

I am proud to say that a growing number of workers in the United States are joining them in to stand against the apartheid regime.

Since 2014 alone, West Coast longshore workers have refused to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo; UAW 2865, 2322, and GSOC-2110; the United Electrical Workers, CT State AFL-CIO, and AFT 3220 have endorsed the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which demands an end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

These actions are in the highest tradition of solidarity, from Black Lives to Standing Rock, from New York City to Palestine.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, on April 16, 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As trade unionists have always said, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All!”

As we say today:
*Free, Free Palestine
*From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free!

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”

 

From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from#NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality.

Join some of the leading representatives from these movements to discuss how we can deepen coalition building and a united front within mushrooming resistance in the Trump era.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22nd
6:30 PM: Reception with refreshments
7:00 PMRound Table starts promptly

WHERE: Formerly Johnie’s Coffee Shop 
6101 Wilshire Blvd, (at Fairfax) Los Angeles, CA 90048

Panel1


MODERATOR: Garik Ruiz, the North America Liaison for the Palestinian#BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. He works with local and national partners throughout North America to support BDS campaigns and be a direct link for local organizers back to the BNC leadership in Palestine. Garik spent 6 months in Palestine at the height of the second Intifada in 2002 and 2003 working with Palestinians resisting the occupation non-violently through the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). LA-based Garik has been deeply involved in local struggles for racial and environmental justice over the years.

ROUND TABLE PANELISTS:

 
Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, Palestinian-American community organizer, refugee born in Kuwait, and originally from the village of Tantoura in the suburbs of Haifa. Currently the National Chair of Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and a board member of the newly launched Palestine Foundation; organizer of many of So-Cal Palestinian Solidarity actions.

Alfredo Gama,
 member Papalotl Brown Berets; undocumented (illegal) youth organizer; organizer of many of the recent large immigration #NoWallNoRaid protests in the Los Angeles area.

Robert Gardnerstudent activist; member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, who has been targeted by ultra rightwing Zionists for his activities; a senior studying Political Science, African American Studies, and Urban Planning.

Nana Gyamfi, member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys dedicated to providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, which includes BLMLA; represented all the BLMLA members who were arrested/had court cases/went to trial from 2014 – 2016; will continue to represent BLMLA members who ask for representation. 

Michael Letwin, 
NYC public defender; former president, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; 1960s-1970s L.A. youth activist (Red Tide); co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock.

Lydia Ponce, organizer with American Indian Movement-SoCal; Idle No More LA; lead organizer of all the many #NoDAPL protests in LA.

Ameena Mirza Qazi, Executive Director of the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. A civil rights attorney and activist; she has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination, First Amendment, equal protection, and procedural due process issues, including #NoWallNoBan.

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: 
Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement (AIM) So-Cal, California for Progress, Idle No More LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock and LA4Palestine, March and Rally Los Angeles.

 
Panel2

Labor and Women’s Rights Movement Plan Ambitious Mass Protests to Fight Trumpism (Alternet)