***The Power of Labor Solidarity with Palestinian Trade Unions to Fight Police Repression (Labor for Palestine National Network Contingent at Labor Notes)

The Power of Labor Solidarity with Palestinian Trade Unions to Fight Police Repression
Statement Issued on April 24, 2024 by:
Labor Notes contingent of the Labor for Palestine National Network

On Friday, April 19, 2024, the Labor for Palestine National Network – a growing network of 30 rank-and-file labor groups – organized a “Rally at Labor Notes: Solidarity With PGFTU-Gaza: End All Complicity – Stop Arming Israel!”. Intended to bring together attendees of the Labor Notes conference attended by 4,500 mostly rank-and-file union activists from across the world, the Labor for Palestine rally centered on uplifting the demands of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions-Gaza (PGFTU-Gaza) and Palestinian trade unions. The rally also served as an opportunity for rank-and-file union activists and working class organizers to share the mic and publicly speak about their organizing efforts for Palestine outside the conference. 

Publicized days in advance, the rally was in no way ever promoted by Labor for Palestine organizers as a protest against Labor Notes or any of the conference keynote speakers. Yet at 6PM on the day of the rally, hotel security and the Rosemont Police Department informed Labor for Palestine organizers that the 6:30 PM rally must move from the entrance of the conference hotel – located away from traffic – to the public sidewalk across the street. Despite the last minute notice, and in an attempt to preemptively de-escalate, Labor for Palestine organizers complied. However, as the rally grew larger in the hundreds, the Rosemont Police Department violently arrested two Labor Notes attendees, slamming people to the pavement for apparently standing in the street. 

What ensued after these arrests is an incredible testament to the collective power and potential of the working class and unions: for over an hour, activists and organizers surrounded the cop car holding one of the arrested activists, refusing to leave until they were free in an effort to de-arrest them. A crowd followed and surrounded the police as they attempted to disappear the second arrested activist, demanding their release. At one point, the Labor Notes scheduled Women in the Building Trades drumline appeared, chanting “which side are you on?” in front of the surrounded cop car and in support of those arrested and those de-arresting. In response to the police’s refusal to comply, a group of union activists moved inside to pressure the Friday night keynote speaker, Mayor Brandon Johnson, and seek support from conference attendees. Simultaneously, Labor for Palestine organizers and Labor Notes organizers negotiated with hotel management, urging them to demand the release of union activists in police custody. Eventually, and in an apparent response to a diversity of de-arrest tactics, the police relented to the power of the people and both activists were released from police custody.

As state-sanctioned political repression escalates in the United States and Palestine against those condemning and opposing the Zionist state, so must our collective efforts as unionists to stop police arrests and demand that police free them all. Trade unionists and police have historically clashed, and the unionized retail workers, autoworkers, teachers, academic workers, public defenders, and other working-class people who banded together at the Labor for Palestine rally are part of that legacy. The de-arrest at Labor Notes is also similar to New York University faculty linking together to prevent student encampments from mass arrests as well as the successful, collective efforts to free Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Palestinian feminist scholar who was first suspended by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reinstated, and then arrested on April 18 by Israeli occupation forces and subjected to torture. De-arrest actions in the face of state-sanctioned political repression and fascist violence are also consistent with efforts to free all 10,000 Palestinian prisoners currently and indefinitely incarcerated under Israeli occupation. “An injury to one is an injury to all” includes workers and their families arrested and detained throughout occupied Palestine.

Labor for Palestine is proud to have been a site of anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, anti-Zionist, abolitionist, and collective liberatory action as witnessed on Friday. We will continue to support those arrested in pursuing any legal or medical support. We condemn the Rosemont Police Department for Friday’s arrests and similarly dispute any framing that the de-arrests were due to anything but the power of the people, specifically rank-and-file union activists. 

Finally, Labor for Palestine again uplifts the PGFTU-Gaza in exposing an international labor movement that “retreat[s] to verbal positions without taking measures on the ground or pressuring the decision-makers to stop this war of extermination, limiting union activities to conferences and statements”. We again uplift the Palestinian trade unions’ call on workers everywhere to stop arming Israel and end all complicity with Israel’s war crimes. Labor for Palestine remains steadfast in our commitment to the power of organized labor, and specifically rank-and-file workers, to actualize these demands for a permanent ceasefire by stopping the U.S.-backed Israeli genocide and a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.

Watch rally video here:

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