FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2016
Maya Wind: email@example.com, (917) 913-7820
Sean Larson: firstname.lastname@example.org, (386) 882-8738
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union and GSOC for BDS:
Union officials attempt to cancel elections and silence support for BDS
NEW YORK: Late Friday night, graduate student workers at New York University were shocked to receive notice from UAW Local 2110 Executive Board that the Local was cancelling the scheduled elections and installing a slate of members to the executive body of the graduate union, GSOC, by default. The incident in Local 2110 could cause major setbacks for UAW efforts to organize graduate workers at other universities. This sudden suspension of union democracy coincides with a much-publicized GSOC referendum on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, scheduled to take place during elections this week. The news also comes after months of preparation for the elections to GSOC’s Assembly of Stewards and Local 2110’s Joint Council, long scheduled to take place from Monday, April 18, to Thursday, April 21.
The announcement by the Local President was followed by individual emails to many candidates stating that they had been disqualified on shaky — and now contested — grounds. The GSOC Votes Committee has issued an open letter to the Local challenging their right to determine internal unit matters and disenfranchise GSOC members. Notably, Local 2110 Executive Board disqualified supporters of the GSOC for BDS caucus, leaving several leaders of the GSOC for Open Dialogue to automatically take the seats without contest. Members of GSOC for Open Dialogue have publicly opposed the BDS resolution. Over the last eight months, members of the GSOC for BDS caucus have been waging an educational and organizing campaign within the union, gathering hundreds of signatures to put the question of joining the BDS movement to referendum.
“I find it too much of a coincidence that AWDU and BDS supporters and advocates have been denied the chance to be voted for, especially given an unclear enforcement over eligibility criteria, which remain ambiguous until now,” said Ziad Dallal, one of the candidates originally disqualified. “The local’s intransigence on this view is undemocratic and disheartens and betrays the trust of the GSOC rank and file,” he added.
Such strong-armed interference in the election process is unprecedented in the union. In previous elections, Local 2110 collaborated with the GSOC unit Votes Committee to carry out elections at NYU, and members were eligible to run based on GSOC bylaws. For the April 2016 elections in conjunction with the BDS vote, however, repeated requests for clarification and collaboration by the GSOC Votes Committee were ignored by the Local president, Maida Rosenstein, and previously unused and long-contested eligibility requirements were unilaterally imposed by the Local. Of the fourteen candidates originally disqualified at the last minute, ten were known supporters of the BDS caucus and nine were members of the democratic reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU).
Sean Larson, a member of the GSOC for BDS caucus and a disqualified candidate said: “The Local has shown it is afraid of democracy, and are willing to upend all precedents to interfere with internal GSOC matters. This undermines the very claims of the UAW to be able to organize academic workers with our unique workplace structure, and puts our entire project in jeopardy.”
The Local 2110 intervention bodes very poorly for UAW prospects of continuing to expand in the academic worker sector. As Local officials have admitted, the membership definition in Local Bylaws, which requires workers to be employed for six months in order to receive full rights is incompatible with the contingent and non-consecutive work situation of NYU graduate workers. The arbitrary application of Local Bylaw requirements on internal GSOC unit affairs therefore disenfranchises the bulk of graduate student workers and prevents them from serving as stewards for their union. Other universities, whose graduate students are organized under UAW, have resolved these issues to allow for comprehensive graduate worker membership.
As divestment campaigns sweep campuses across the nation, New York University graduate students are still voting on whether to join the BDS movement. GSOC-UAW 2110, a labor union representing over 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University, is the first graduate employee union at a private university to hold a membership vote on boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli occupation and for Palestinian self-determination. If passed, GSOC-UAW 2110 will join the University of California Student-Worker union UAW local 2865, as well as University of Massachusetts Amherst and CUNY’s doctoral students council, who voted to endorse BDS just last week.
The proposed measure calls on NYU and UAW International to divest their investments, including pension funds, from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights. It also calls on NYU to close its study abroad program at Tel Aviv University and asks that members pledge to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel and refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights.
This historic vote on BDS occurs in the wake of a growing momentum for the BDS movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide. Over eight academic associations and countless university student councils have already joined the movement. Major unions internationally have also joined, including the National Union of Students in the UK, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, as well as the United Electrical Workers Union and Connecticut AFL-CIO here in the US.
Between legislation banning BDS organizing and threatening to defund student groups who support the movement, it seems like Israel supporters will stop at nothing to silence activists seeking justice for the Palestinians.