Category Archives: Israel Bonds

UAW Labor for Palestine Rank and File Welcomes Our Leadership’s Pro-Ceasefire Announcement, Demands that the International UAW Endorse Palestinian Trade Union Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2023
Contact: uawlaborforpalestine@gmail.com

UAW Labor for Palestine Rank and File Welcomes Our Leadership’s Pro-Ceasefire Announcement, Demands that the International UAW Endorse Palestinian Trade Union Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Palestinian trade unions have urged immediate action to stop the flow of weapons to Israel

Detroit, Michigan—UAW Labor for Palestine, a working group composed of rank-and-file members formed in opposition to Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and throughout Palestine, welcomes the International UAW’s call for a ceasefire, announced by Region 9A director Brandon Mancilla on December 1.

Now, we reaffirm the October 27 rank-and-file UAW Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) sign-on letter endorsed by hundreds of union members, which calls on UAW leadership to honor the urgent appeal from Palestinian trade unions by taking “immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade.”  

In the last month, rank-and-file UAW members across the country have sent hundreds of letters urging the International Executive Board to call for a ceasefire, to stand in “solidarity with Palestine,” and to endorse the BDS call. We are encouraged to learn the UAW will be forming a working group to investigate economic ties to Israel and to militarism more broadly, which was formed as the result of our rank-and-file organizing. We plan on participating actively in that group—and continuing to pressure our union leadership to stand in solidarity for a free Palestine.

Specifically, in this moment we call on the International UAW to endorse and implement BDS against all institutions complicit in Israeli settler colonialism by taking the following concrete steps:

  • Terminate UAW’s ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation
  • Divest our unions and employers from Israel Bonds and from the military, extractive, and technological industries connected with the Israeli occupation and U.S. imperialism 
  • Demand that the United States government immediately halt all aid and military support to Israel
  • Protect UAW members who engage in pro-Palestine speech and advocacy—particularly Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab workers—from doxxing, surveillance, and repression within and beyond the workplace, including the blatantly unconstitutional and union-busting Temporary Restraining Order that blocks UAW 2325 membership from democratically voting on a proposed Palestine solidarity resolution 
  • Vacate the UAW’s anti-democratic nullification of previous Palestinian solidarity resolutions adopted by UAW 2865, UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110
  • Involve rank-and-file members, including those building solidarity with Palestinian workers, in the newly announced UAW Divestment and Just Transition Working Group

We call on fellow UAW members to bring our BDS sign-on letter to their local unions, to pass BDS resolutions, and to educate coworkers on the links between Palestinian liberation and our own workplaces and futures. We urge our fellow trade unionists across the labor movement to adopt our statement and pressure their union leadership to support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Israel, and to finally end the labor movement’s complicity with the ongoing genocide in Palestine. Union members who want to connect with us can reach us at uawlaborforpalestine@gmail.com

About UAW Labor for Palestine: UAW Labor for Palestine–formally a working group created through the UAW Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly–is a collective of rank-and-file members organizing across the UAW to demand an immediate end to Israel’s apartheid regime, occupation, and ongoing genocide in Palestine, to embrace the recent urgent call from Palestinian trade unions to stop arming Israel, and to act upon the UAW Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) sign-on letter by advancing Palestine solidarity priorities. We organize at the individual, shop, local, and regional levels, and we work towards ending the International UAW’s complicity in Israeli apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people.

About the UAW Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly: The Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly (RFA) is the only regional organizing space of its kind in the UAW. In it, rank-and-file members across all industries develop cross-sector strategies to strengthen our solidarity within our union and to build a stronger UAW. In addition to UAW Labor for Palestine, RFA working groups currently exist for reproductive justice, higher education, union recognition and inclusive units, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and organizing in the social services sector. All regional initiatives launched by the RFA—from working group creation to campaigns and direct action—are developed and led by our union’s rank and file.

Press Release: UAW 2325 (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys) Votes to Divest From Israel Bonds

PRESS RELEASE
UAW 2325 (ASSOCIATION OF LEGAL AID ATTORNEYS) VOTES TO DIVEST FROM ISRAEL BONDS

New York City, July 26, 2022. On Friday, July 22nd, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (ALAA/UAW 2325) passed a resolution calling for the divestment of UAW member dues from Israel bonds. The resolution was adopted by a wide margin in a membership-wide vote, with 75% of those who participated voting in favor. 

The resolution sets itself out as a direct response to the May 2021 call by Palestinian labor organizations, made during a historic general strike, for union workers around the world to join in the anti-apartheid movement for Palestinian liberation by supporting the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which calls for an end to an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. 

The resolution comes nearly half a century after Detroit autoworkers held a 1973 wildcat strike to demand that UAW divest from Israel bonds, which fund dispossession of the Palestinian people. A similar call was adopted in an overwhelming vote by the 13,000 teaching assistant and student-worker members of UAW 2865 at the University of California in 2014, before being undemocratically “nullified” by UAW’s International Executive Board. 

The ALAA/UAW 2325 resolution endorses collective action in support of Palestinian liberation and calls on UAW to divest from its holdings  in Israel bonds. The resolution also calls on UAW to practice transparency in its holdings funded by member dues, and to develop democratic processes for members to control further investments. 

“As legal aid workers, we should ask whether our union dues are being used to promote justice or inhibit it,” said Ihab Mikati, one of the members who proposed the resolution. “How can we build a legitimate movement while materially supporting exploitation, or occupation, or apartheid? Labor is stronger when we recognize that solidarity extends beyond the walls of our offices.”  

“By this landslide membership vote, we join the growing ranks in labor who honor the BDS picket line,” said Michael Letwin, former president of UAW 2325, co-convener of Labor for Palestine, and co-founder of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return. “Solidarity with Palestine is natural given our work as public defenders and indigent legal services workers, and intersects with our union’s tradition of support for labor, Black Lives, immigrants, reproductive rights, and countless other justice movements.” 

Contact: 
Ihab Mikati – ihab.mikati@gmail.com 
Michael Letwin –  info@laborforpalestine.net

U.S. Unions Bankroll Israeli Aggression (Socialist Action)

Socialist Action /August 2002

U.S. Unions Bankroll Israeli Aggression

By BOB MATTINGLY

 

Labor voices are being raised against the AFL-CIO’s collaboration with the U.S. government’s backing of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

Unionists are petitioning the labor federation’s officers, stating that they “deplore the fact that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney recently associated U.S. labor’s name with support for the Israeli invasion of the West Bank, which has resulted in the widespread death and destruction of the Palestinian people and property.”

The petitioners charge that “all the world knows the murderous assault on the Palestinians with the most modern tanks, helicopters, and missiles is financed by our taxes.”

But what the world and even most U.S. unionists may not know is that U.S. union dues monies and union pension funds are being used to buy Israeli government bonds, also helping to finance what the petitioners accurately term Israel’s “horrific aggression.”

Michael Letwin, the president of UAW 2325, which represents legal aid lawyers, says, “It’s bad enough that our tax dollars are going to fund Israel, but our union dues-that’s intolerable.”

Yes, it’s intolerable, and the money is considerable. The Jewish weekly Forward on March 22 quoted the National Committee for Labor Israel’s director as estimating that “the American labor community holds $5 billion in Israel bonds.”

And judging by the mutual praise regularly exchanged by U.S. union officials, the Jewish Labor Committee, Israeli politicians and the Israel Bonds National Labor Division fund raisers, there can be no doubt that U.S. unions will continue to buy Israeli bonds in significant amounts.

For example, in November, the Israeli bonds sellers will hold a tribute dinner for Terence O’Sullivan, president of the 800,000-strong Laborers Union, according to the Israel Bonds National Labor Division’s web site.

A later tribute is being organized for the A. Philip Randolph Institute, headed by Norman Hill, also a member of the Israeli Bonds Labor Advisory Board, which is co-chaired by Barbara Easterling, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communication Workers Union.

In 1999, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka called on unionists “to invest in the [Israeli] bonds that are such a tangible link between our movement and the continuing struggle to nurture and protect the State of Israel.”

A year earlier, AFL-CIO head John J. Sweeney accepted the Israeli Bonds 50th Anniversary Labor Achievement Award.

But those American trade unionists that are slapped on the back by the Israeli bond sales staff shouldn’t think that the bond sellers are all that selective with their praise and awards. In1975, the Israeli Ambassador inducted the notorious Teamster official Jackie Presser into the “Prime Minister’s Club, a group made up of people who personally (or in Presser’s case, through his union) bought more than $25,000 worth of bonds” (Steven Brill, “The Teamsters”).

By 1977, Brill reported, the Teamsters “had bought $26,000,000 worth [of Israeli bonds] out of total American union purchases of $100,000,000.”

The Forward reported that recent honorees and speakers at a March Jewish Labor Committee dinner included Richard Trumka; Michael Monroe, general president of the Painters Union; Morton Bahr, head of the Communications Workers Union; Dennis Hughes, president of the AFL-CIO, New York State; and Mike Sacco, president of the Seafarers Union, who, when introduced, “removed the napkin tucked into his collar and waved it in the air.”

What the bond money buys

In a May 30 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) charged that Israeli aggression has resulted in a “socio-economic meltdown,” devastating to Palestinian workers.

An ILO statement on its report said, “‘The escalation of violence and the military occupation of the territories have caused great physical damage to the infrastructure and agricultural land ‘ Preliminary figures put the cost of reconstruction of public and private buildings and infrastructure in the West Bank alone at some USD 432 million.

“Real growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Palestinian areas declined by 12 per cent in 2001 and real Gross National Income (GNI), the sum of GDP and of factor income earned abroad (wages of Palestinian earned in Israel) dropped by 18.7 per cent, according to the report.

Further, “Preliminary ILO estimates suggest that ‘unemployment could have reached nearly 43 per cent in the occupied territories during the first quarter (January-March) of 2002.’

“‘The percentage of the population living in poverty (less than USD 2.1 per day) increased from 21 per cent in 1999 to 33 per cent in 2000 and 46 per cent in 2001. The figure could possibly reach 62 per cent in 2002,’ the report said.”

Union members shouldn’t think that Israeli government bonds bought with their dues monies and pension funds pay high interest rates. According to the Multinational Monitor report by Mokhiber, “The bonds pay interest rates below those of other available securities and well below what most investors would expect from loans to a foreign government, especially one as economically troubled as Israel….

“And unlike most bonds, State of Israel securities are not easily converted into cash. The institutional bonds cannot be traded on the open market, and can only be sold to pension funds, charities and other non-profit organizations [labor unions]. Israel bonds not only pay a poor return, they carry a high risk as well. Although Israel bonds, like other privately placed securities, are not given a credit rating, if they were they would almost certainly be considered a poor investment.”

1500 labor groups buy bonds

Given the poor financial returns from buying Israeli bonds, and putting aside the anti-Palestinian aims some union officials undoubtedly share with the Israeli and Zionist establishment, why have so many unions (1500 labor organizations, reported Lee O’Brien in “American Jewish Organizations and Israel,” and cited by Mokhiber) put their members’ dues monies into Israeli bonds?

It’s hard not to conclude that a large part of the answer has to do with the uncritical backing that high union officials have traditionally given to bipartisan foreign policies, including the Marshall Plan, the Vietnam War, and the current military intervention in Afghanistan.

It’s well documented that the highest echelons of the AFL-CIO have worked hand in hand with various U.S. administrations to oppose, subvert, and destroy democratic movements, especially in Latin America, targeted by the CIA (giving a new meaning to the term “company” men).

Even today, the AFL-CIO receives more than $15,000,000 a year from the government, which suggests to some critics that the U.S. labor federation might have had a role in the recent failed coup attempt in Venezuela.

In April, AFL-CIO chief Sweeney spoke at a Washington, D.C. gathering billed as a “Solidarity Rally for Israel. Sweeney said that “the American labor movement has a long and enduring relationship with the state of Israel, a relationship grounded in our solidarity with the Israeli Trade Union Federation, the Histadrut.”

Although he acknowledged that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is fueled by poverty and despair,” he knowingly ignored the February Israeli bombing of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Nablus.

Nor did Sweeney choose to speak in defense of ordinary Palestinian workers employed in Israel who must register at official labor exchanges and then are subjected to huge deductions from their pay: “I worked for three years through the labor office and no one ever told us what benefits we were entitled to. They were taking over 25 percent of our wages and give us nothing in return” (“Attacking Labor,” by Marty Rosenbluth, Multinational Monitor, April 1988).

Nor did Sweeney denounce the Israeli’s forcing of Palestinian workers to return to the territories each night, bringing to mind the racist segregation of the former South Africa apartheid regime.

Sweeney told the Washington rally that he spoke on behalf of the union federation’s 13 million working members. But some union members would dispute Sweeney’s claim, including New York trade unionists who in May picketed the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council’s meeting with Israeli Consul general Alon Pinkus at the Sheraton Hotel.

The union pickets called for divestment from Israeli bonds, an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.