UAW 2865 makes history

December 15, 2014

United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865, which represents 13,000 academic workers at the University of California, has become the first U.S. union to pass by a rank-and-file vote a resolution honoring the Palestinian call for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The resolution calls on the University of California and UAW International to divest from companies involved in Israeli apartheid and U.S. military aid to Israel. Here, we reprint Local 2865's statement announcing the outcome of the vote.

This is a decisive victory for justice for Palestinians. After months of campaigning, we are inspired that so many members participated in this vote and made their voices heard. This is a testament to our membership's engagement with matters of social justice. This vote was a first step in our commitment to solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and facing discriminatory laws, and we will continue to take steps to make that solidarity concrete as part of our involvement in anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles broadly.
-- Kumars Salehi, member

We are committed to linking student and labor movements in the United States to student and labor movements in other parts of the world, including Palestine. As student-workers fighting the attacks on education here in California as well as the decades-long crackdown on labor in the U.S. generally, we know that international labor solidarity makes us stronger, and we support Palestinian students, workers and broader society in their decades-long struggle against dispossession, occupation and apartheid.
-- Loubna Qutami, member

UAW Local 2865 member supporting BDS at the Block the Boat action in the Bay Area
UAW Local 2865 member supporting BDS at the Block the Boat action in the Bay Area

UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65 percent of voting members in support. Over 2,100 members voted, a testament to union democracy.

The measure calls on:

1) the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid;

2) the UAW International to divest from these same entities; and

3) the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel.

Fifty-two percent of voting members also pledged not to "take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel" until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.

In total, 1,136 members pledged to observe the academic boycott, a reflection of the ways student laborers are taking concrete actions to practice solidarity.


IN JULY, the union's Joint Council, comprised of 83 elected officers across nine UC campuses, published an open letter outlining support for the Palestinian civil society call for BDS "against public institutions and corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestinians." This open letter announced it would seek a membership vote on the matter in the coming academic year. The UAW 2865 Joint Council took these steps in response to a call for solidarity from all major Palestinian trade unions, including the Palestinian University Teachers' Association, The Joint Council's open letter was followed by four months of internal debate prior to the election and deep engagement by members statewide.

The goal of the nonviolent global BDS strategy is that Israel will end land confiscation and human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, recognize rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel as over 50 Israeli laws currently discriminate against them, and respect the right under international law of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

UAW 2865 joins several labor unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, UNITE New Zealand, CUPE in Canada, COSATU in South Africa and many dockworker unions around the world. It also joins growing grassroots voices in the U.S. labor movement, including rank-and-file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 that supported community pickets and successfully blocked Israeli ships from unloading goods similar to their historic involvement in the anti-South African apartheid movement, and hundreds of labor organizers who signed onto the Labor for Palestine statement. Within the UAW itself, Local 2865 follows the precedent of Arab American auto workers in Detroit in 1973 who protested the union's purchase of Israeli bonds financing the seizure of Palestinian lands. Just as Black workers at Polaroid in the U.S. launched a boycott of their company for helping make apartheid passbooks for South Africans, we support workers in other UAW-unionized industries in pressuring their employers to commit to socially responsible business practices so that the illegal occupation of Palestinians comes to an end.

The mostly graduate student worker union joins the undergraduate student governments of UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UCLA which have passed resolutions in support of divestment.

We are immensely grateful for the tremendous support from numerous individuals and organizations, including letters of support from over 700 people from Jewish communities, feminist and queer workers linking the campaign to repression against Palestinian-American feminist activist Rasmea Odeh, among letters from many other groups which were posted on a Facebook page in support of the measure.

For more information, please visit uaw2865.org. The original UAW press release is available here.

E-mail alerts

Further Reading

Latest Stories

From the archives