Connecticut labor federation backs Israel boycott
Activism and BDS Beat 11 November 2015
The Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO has voted to back key elements of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.
AFL-CIO is the largest US labor federation, counting dozens of unions with a combined membership of almost 13 million workers as its affiliates – 200,000 of them in Connecticut.
At the Connecticut branch’s convention in October, delegates passed a resolution calling on the national AFL-CIO to adopt 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, and to urge its affiliates and related pension and annuity funds to adopt similar strategies.”
It also calls on the US to “diligently apply all diplomatic and economic tools to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to support a fair and just peace in which the people of Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security in accordance with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The resolution notes that Unite, the largest union in United Kingdom and Ireland, has backed BDS.
Democratic Party ties
The move is significant because while many rank-and-file members of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions have supported Palestinian rights, the same has not been true for the federation’s leadership.
The national AFL-CIO worked closely with the US Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War to subvert left-wing movements and governments around the world.
It has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and remains closely tied to that party’s pro-Israel establishment.
Both the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as his would-be successor Hillary Clinton, oppose any form of boycott of Israel, including of its settlements.
In September, a delegation of Connecticut trade union leaders traveled to Palestine in response to an invitation from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.
It included David Roche, president of the Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council, who co-sponsored the resolution along with John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists.
Reverend David W. Good, who co-led the delegation for the Tree of Life Educational Fund, spoke last month about the Israeli abuses the participants witnessed:
Good made the case for BDS, arguing that “the fulcrum of change is with us.”
“I’m very, very thankful for the union members who came back from our last Tree of Life journey resolved to be in solidarity with workers in Palestine,” Good added.
Following the vote, resolution co-sponsor John Harrity said: “We are proud that the [Connecticut] AFL-CIO, through the action of elected delegates from the large spectrum of unions that make up our federation, voted to endorse the resolution.”
Stanley Heller, a longtime Palestine solidarity activist in Connecticut, called the state’s AFL-CIO vote “a giant stride forward.”
“There’s probably going to be a discussion about BDS in trade unions all across the country,” Heller predicted. “Unions will discuss whether the labor adage ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ will be applied to Palestinian working people too.”
The Connecticut AFL-CIO did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s repeated requests for comment and the organization does not appear to have issued any statement about the resolution.
The Connecticut AFL-CIO vote predictably generated reactionary disgust. “You are supporting a people and a culture that seeks to annihilate Israel,” Elie Goretsky commented at the federation’s Facebook page. “Ergo, your organization endorses anti-Semitic beliefs and activities.”
“Sickened to see that you racist pigs choose to support terrorists,” added Corey Multer, who suggested that the federation change its name to “ISIS-FL-CIO Connecticut.”
As news about the decision spreads, there is likely to be a more organized backlash than mere abuse on Facebook.
In August, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) became only the second national union in the United States, and the largest so far, to vote to back BDS.
UE – which is not affiliated with AFL-CIO – now finds itself under legal assault by the Israeli intelligence-linked lawfare group Shurat HaDin, which has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
A UE spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada last month that the union was confident the complaint would be dismissed.