UAW Local 2865 members should vote to join BDS movement
December 3, 2014 1:11 am
On Dec. 4, the membership of UAW Local 2865, the University of California-wide student-worker union, will vote on whether to answer Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This call demands the Israeli state end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, end discriminatory policies against Palestinian citizens of Israel and grant the millions of Palestinian refugees the right to return to Palestine.
Our union leadership has proposed that we join the BDS call by supporting the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and pressing the UAW, the UC and the U.S. government to divest from financial support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The tireless and impressive organizing work of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA has, in a matter of years, brought UC divestment to the forefront of public discussion on campus. The tactic of divestment pressures businesses to act with social responsibility and moral awareness. In this case, calling for UC and UAW divestment would not only exert this pressure, but would express powerful solidarity with the Palestinian people.
What’s more, our union will be building upon the successes of SJP and other Palestinian solidarity organizations in the U.S. by asking our members to join the academic boycott. As academic workers, engaging in this boycott is the most significant way that we can use our labor to make a politically powerful statement. Israeli academic institutions are complicit in violence against Palestinian communities in many ways, including the erasure and censorship of Palestinian history, discriminatory funding and support for Jewish students over Arab students and direct collaboration with the Israeli army – which has carried out clandestine wars against Palestinian communities for decades.
Within our union, we have pursued the BDS vote while affirming UAW 2865’s commitment to democratic engagement. The BDS proposal was first approved by an unequivocal majority of the UAW Joint Council’s elected representatives from all UC campuses. The ballot initiative was adopted by a reflective, deliberative and contentious process that included a wide range of perspectives for and against. After deliberation, the Council decided to allow all union membership across the UC to vote on BDS on Dec. 4.
We believe this vote continues our union’s legacy of solidarity with local and international justice struggles. Far from singling out Israel, our union has shown solidarity through protests and statements with numerous justice struggles – Palestinians, South Africans during Apartheid, and Chilean and Taiwanese student movements, respectively. Active members of the union are engaged in struggles supporting economic and social equality, fighting to counter racism, sexism and homophobia in our communities. Our broad commitment to social justice is inspiration for our BDS activism, because support for Israeli state policies implicates us all.
Our government provides the Israeli state over $3 billion in aid annually, which engages in ongoing mass violence against Palestinian communities. Inaction is not neutral.
Our union represents workers for companies that support the occupation – Raytheon and Caterpillar. UAW union workers have reason to be outraged that their companies have leveraged union workers’ employment on the blood of innocents. The union has an opportunity to play a progressive role in influencing these companies to end their collaboration with the Israeli state.
Our privileged position as academic workers is made possible by the taxes and good will of Californians, many of whom are directly affected by these and other important issues of social justice. Our work in academia is often complicit in violence against Palestinian communities, which renders us complicit, often without our consent. The status quo and our silence supports this reality.
Many perspectives have aligned in support of the goals and tactics of BDS. This includes several unions around the world; high-profile artists, intellectuals and scientists; and a number professional academic institutions. By voting for divestment and joining the academic boycott, the BDS caucus of the union asks its members to act on an urgent moral imperative to support the full realization of Palestinian dignity and self-determination. Inaction is no longer ethical.
Elzein is a graduate student in education. Taiwo is a graduate student in philosophy.