GEO Statement of Solidarity with UAW 4811

Original online here.

GEO Statement of Solidarity with UAW 4811 (UM GEO AFT 3550)

by Communications Chair 

on June 8, 2024

Dear Members of UAW 4811, 

We, the members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization at University of Michigan, write to you to salute you in leveraging your labor power toward justice from California to Palestine. The University of California, like the University of Michigan, funds the apartheid system and genocide in Palestine, and we support your strike action for divestment in line with the Palestinian BDS call. At a time when universities and other institutions rely on the state to repress pro-Palestine activism and distract from the massacres unfolding in Gaza, we see that the UC has made attempts to secure an injunction, and now secured a TRO, as yet another tool to repress the struggle for divestment and amnesty. We write to you as trade unionists who have navigated the terrain of injunctions and TROs in the hope that our experiences can be instructive. 

Graduate workers at Michigan have gone on strike twice in the past four years, and both times, the University filed requests for injunctions. In 2020, we ended our strike immediately after the University filed an injunction due to a lack of preparation and fear-mongering within our union that prevented a grounded understanding of the process and risk involved. This premature conclusion had implications not just for us, but for the local labor movement; empowered with the knowledge that the threat of an injunction alone could break a strike, UM continued to employ this tactic against other labor unions.

In 2023, we did not back down so quickly. Even facing the threat of another injunction, we knew that our power came from our commitment to fighting for each other. Collective conversations about the risks – on the one hand, legal fines and potential arrest of union officers, and on the other hand, the cost of not winning our demands if we were to end our strike prematurely – kept us grounded. After UM filed for an injunction, we prepared to hold department meetings and vote to continue striking in the event the injunction was granted. Ultimately, a judge denied UM’s injunction, and we wielded our strike power to win serious contract gains. From West Virginia to Newton to the University of Michigan, education workers in the U.S. have shown that we can strike in violation of the law and win. 

UC wants you to think that you cannot possibly win. That is why they have filed their requests for injunction and now a TRO; not because they sincerely believe their legal arguments but because they want to zap your fighting spirit and break your political will. They want you to think you have no space to maneuver, that our struggles are not connected and the costs of standing up for yourselves and the Palestinian cause are simply too high, and that real power lies in the hands of lawyers and judges, instead of your own. Only you can determine what is actually true – what power do you have and are you willing to exert it towards divestment? 

Your decision to take strike action in pursuit of divestment and in solidarity with Palestinian workers is a testament to the possibility of building a global labor movement in the U.S. that does not stop fighting when anti-labor laws are mobilized to serve American imperial interests, but instead dares to pursue justice for all, across geographies. As Palestinian workers lead the way for all of us, you are laying a path for a global material solidarity in line with their call. We know that victory in this strike means a victory for the Palestinian liberation movement, and for all of us. Strike to win!

In Solidarity, 

UM GEO AFT 3550 

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