Respect the BDS picket line

February 2, 2016

In 2014, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865, which represents academic workers at the University of California, passed a historic resolution in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice. Last month, the UAW's International Executive Board (IEB) undemocratically overturned the result of this vote. Labor for Palestine has initiated an open letter calling on the UAW leadership to "Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity and the BDS Picket Line," as the January 28 letter is titled.

AS WORKERS, trade unionists and anti-apartheid activists, we call on the United Auto Workers International Executive Board (IEB) to rescind its undemocratic and arbitrary "nullification" of UAW 2865's respect for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) picket line, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the 13,000 teaching assistants and student-workers at the University of California in 2014.


Unfounded Interference

The IEB concedes that it could "find no evidence that the local union engaged in any improper actions that may have prohibited a fair and democratic vote."

Nonetheless, it sides with anti-labor corporate lawyers to defend the profits of military contractors who arm apartheid Israel. Enlisting in a well-funded witch-hunt designed to silence those who speak up for Palestinian rights, it falsely calls BDS "anti-Semitic."

In doing so, the IEB disregards more than a century of colonialism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, including Israel's establishment through the dispossession of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-48 Nakba (Catastrophe), a regime that veteran South African freedom fighters call "worse than apartheid."

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

It turns a blind eye to $3.1 billion a year in U.S. military aid, with which Israel massacred 2,200 Palestinians (including 500 children) in Gaza in 2014, and inflicted a 10-year high in Palestinian casualties in the West Bank in 2015.

It refuses to acknowledge more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

It is deaf to urgent Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity in the form of support for BDS.

It omits the stated goals of BDS, which demands 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.

It ignores the endorsement of BDS by Black Lives Matter activists, Jewish members of UAW 2865 and trade unions around the world.

It fails to recognize that BDS is entirely consistent with past UAW support for boycotts organized by the Civil Rights Movement, United Farm Workers and the South African anti-apartheid movement.

Lacking any semblance of fairness, the IEB's decision has been appealed to the UAW's Public Review Board.


UAW Leaders' Complicity with Apartheid

In contrast to UAW 2865's highly transparent support for BDS, the IEB's biased ruling reflects UAW top leaders' longstanding and unaccountable complicity with the racist ideology of Labor Zionism.

In the 1940s, UAW and other top U.S. labor leaders actively supported the Nakba. UAW president Walter Reuther was closely allied with future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who later infamously pronounced, "[t]here were no such things as Palestinians."

In the 1950s, UAW conventions passed pro-Israel resolutions and raised funds for the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation. Reuther's brother, Victor, served as U.S. spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund, which remains at the forefront of seizing Palestinian lands. In subsequent years, "the UAW may have been the largest institutional purchaser of Israel Bonds," which fund dispossession of the Palestinian people.

In 2007, International UAW leaders signed a statement drafted by the Jewish Labor Committee that attacked unions in the UK for endorsing BDS.

Now they seek to disenfranchise UAW 2865 members, muzzle free speech, and demonize the surging BDS movement.


Rank-and-File Resistance

Rank-and-file UAW members have a history of challenging this pro-apartheid stance.

In January 1969, the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers publicly condemned Israeli colonialism. On October 14, 1973, 3,000 Arab autoworkers in Detroit held a wildcat strike to protest UAW Local 600's purchase--without membership approval--of $300,000 in Israel Bonds. On November 28, 1973, Arab, Black and other autoworkers struck to protest UAW International President Leonard Woodcock's acceptance of the B'nai B'rith's "Humanitarian Award."

UAW 2865's BDS resolution reclaims and revives this proud tradition of solidarity and social justice. When Palestinian trade unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and Labor for Palestine issued renewed BDS calls in response to Israel's 2014 Gaza massacre, UAW 2865's Joint Council openly informed the entire membership:

We intend to throw our weight behind the BDS movement to add to the international pressure against Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinian people. As workers, students, and as a labor union, we stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination from a settler-colonial power.

On December 4, 2014, UAW 2865 members adopted this nonbinding resolution by a landslide 65 percent, thereby becoming the first major U.S. union to endorse BDS.


Growing U.S. Labor Support for BDS

UAW 2865's courageous vote was paralleled by ILWU Local 10 members who refused to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014, and has been followed by adoption of BDS resolutions by the United Electrical Workers and Connecticut AFL-CIO in 2015.

Attempts to silence this growing solidarity movement are doomed to failure, as reflected in the National Labor Relations Board's recent dismissal of a challenge to the UE's BDS resolution.

As the 2865 BDS Caucus explains:

No letter from the IEB can erase the educational and organizational work we have done over the past year, work we will continue to do, energized no doubt by the IEB's undemocratic, business­friendly attempt to nullify this vote...

We are part of a growing movement for union solidarity with the people of Palestine and for a democratic and visionary U.S. labor movement. As workers, educators and students, we know together we can prevail over these forms of repression and continue striving for justice for all peoples.

Sharing that vision, we stand shoulder to shoulder with UAW 2865 in respecting the BDS picket line.


Initial Signers
List in formation; affiliation shown for identification only; * indicates Labor for Palestine co-conveners

*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW (NYC)
*Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (NYC)
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU Local 10 (retired)(Oakland CA)
*Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union Local 100 (retired)(NYC)
Rabab Abdulhadi, California Faculty Association-San Francisco State University
Judith Ackerman, 1199SEIU, AFT, UFT, AFTRA, SAG (NYC)
Larry Adams, Former President, NPMHU Local 300; People's Organization for Progress (NJ)
Bina Ahmad, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (NYC)
Sameerah Ahmad, Former Diversity Coordinator, GEO/UAW Local 2322 (Chicago, IL)
Tanya Akel, Regional Director, IBT Local 2010
Greg Albo, YUFA, York University (Toronto, ON)
Tania Aparicio, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Noha Arafa, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
B. Ross Ashley, Former Shop Steward and Executive Council member, SEIU Local 204, then Local 1 (Toronto, ON)
Shahar Azoulay, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (NYC)
Lejla Bajrami, 1199SEIU (Brooklyn, NY)
John Becker, IBT Local 814 (Detroit, MI)
Marie Bellavia, NEA/Portland Association of Teachers (OR)
Zarina Bhatia, GMB, TUC (retired) (Birmingham, UK)
Michael Billeaux, Recording Secretary, WITAA-AFT 3220 (Madison, WI)
Walter Birdwell, Retired Shop Steward, NALC Branch 283 (Laguna Vista, TX)
Dana Blanchard, Executive Board, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1078
Dave Bleakney, 2nd National VP, CUPW (Ottawa, ON)
Donna Blythe-McColgan, Staff Rep., USW (Boston, MA)
Deena Brazy, AFSCME Local 6000 (Madison, WI)
Richard Blum, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Ray Bush, UCU Leeds Branch (UK)
Claudia Carrera, Shop Steward, GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Joshua Carrin, Delegate, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Sara Catalinotto, Former Delegate, UFT/AFT Local 2 (NYC)
Joe Catron, NWU/UAW Local 1981 (NYC)
Nora Carroll, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Jan Clausen, President, Goddard College Faculty Union, UAW Local 2322
Frank Couget, NALC Branch 36 (NYC)
CUNY Law School Labor Coalition (NYC)
Amy Cross, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Mike Cushman, Former Secretary, LSE Branch, UCU (London, UK)
Denise D'Anne, SEIU Local 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
Ziad Dallal, Steward, UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Buzz Davis, Executive Board, AFT-W Retiree Council (Stoughton, WI)
Dominic DeSiata, IBEW Local 103 (Boston, MA)
John Dudley, SEIU-CT State Retirees Chapter
Lisa Edwards, Alternate Delegate, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (NYC)
Arla S. Ertz, SEIU Local 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
John Estes, NALC (Birmingham, AL)
Shelley Ettinger, AFT Local 3882 (NYC)
Jessica Feldman, Shop Steward, UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Sarah S. Forth, NWU/UAW Local 1981 (Los Angeles, CA)
Josh Fraidstern, TWU Local 100 (Brooklyn, NY)
Cynthia Franklin, UHPA (Honolulu, HI)
Jeremy Fredericksen, Alternate VP and Delegate, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council
Nick Giannone, Trustee, Boilermakers Local 29 (Weymouth, MA)
Steve Gillis, Financial Secretary, USWA Local 8751 (Boston School Bus Drivers' Union)
Mike Gimbel, Executive Board, AFSCME Local 375 AFSCME (retired)(NYC)
Brian Glennie, IUEC Local 82 (Parkville, BC)
Sherna Gluck, Former VP, CFA/SEIU Local 1983
Sam Grainger, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Martha Grevatt, Civil and Human Rights Committee, UAW Local 869 (Ferndale, MI)
Ira Grupper, Delegate (retired), Greater Louisville (KY) Central Labor Council, BCTGM Local 16T
Gabriel Haaland, Steward, CWA Local 9404 (Vallejo, CA)
Jesse Hagopian, Association Rep., Seattle Education Association/NEA
Frank Hammer, UAW-GM international Rep.; UAW Local 909 (retired)(Detroit, MI)
Denise N. Hammond, Unifor 591g (Toronto, ON)
Lenora Hanson, Member, Executive Board, AFT Local 3220, Teaching Assistants' Association (Madison, WI)
Abdul-Basit Haqq, Staff Rep., CWA Local 1037 (Piscataway, NJ)
Janet Harmon, Local Trustee, AFSCME DC 37 Local 436 (NYC)
Shafeka Hashash, Steward, GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
David Heap, University of Western Ontario Faculty Association
Win Heimer, VP, Greater Hartford Central Labor Council; AFT Local 4200R and CSEA Council 400, Local 2001, SEIU, CTW
Lucy Herschel, Delegate, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)
Monadel Herzallah, SEIU (San Francisco, CA)
Jack Heyman, ILWU Local 10 (retired); Chair, TWSC; Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (Oakland, CA)
Molly Hogan, ILWU/IBU (retired)(CA)
Jey Iyadurai, Human Rights Rep., CUPW 626 (Toronto, ON)
Ruth Jennison, Departmental Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA
Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary, San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers-AFT Local 1493
Daniel J. Kelly, Shop Steward and Albany Labor Council Delegate, CSEA Local 1000 and Local 690
Ed Kinchley, SEIU Local 1021 Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
John Kirkland, Carpenters Local 1462 (Bucks County, PA)
David Klein, California Faculty Association (Los Angeles, CA)
Jeff Klein, Retired President, NAGE/SEIU Local R1-168 (Boston, MA)
Cindy Klumb, Chief Shop Steward, OPEIU Local 153 (Brooklyn, NY)
Dennis Kortheuer, California Faculty Association
Daniella Korotzer, Former VP and former Health and Safety Officer, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Dennis Kosuth, Steward, NNU (Chicago, IL)
Pooja Kothari, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Rebecca Kurti, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)
David Laibman, PSC-CUNY/AFT Local 2334 retirees' chapter (NYC)
Carol Lang, AFSCME DC 37 and PSC-CUNY/AFT Local 2334 (Bronx, NY)
Patrick Langhenry, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Queens, NY)
Angaza Laughinghouse, VP, NC Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150
Raymond Leduc, Boilermakers Local 29 (retired) (Orleans, MA)
David Letwin, AAUP (Brooklyn, NY)
Eli Lichtenstein, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Michael Louw, Organizer/Educator, Congress of South African Trade Unions
Eamon McMahon, Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA); UNISON; Secretary, Trade Union Friends of Palestine
Ying-Ying Ma, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Mone Makkawi, GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Leah Martin, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, UAW Local 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Mark S. Mendoza, Cincinnati Worker Center
Kevin Moloney, CUPE 3903 (ON)
Susan Morris, Former Alternate VP, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Roslyn R. Morrison, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Eli Nadeau, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Yasaman Naraghi, UAW Local 4121 (Seattle, WI)
Chris Nickell, Shop Steward and Unit Rep., GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Michelle O'Brien, Steward, GSOC/UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Jose A. Ortega, IBEW Local 145 (Rock Island, IL)
Rod Palmquist, UAW Local 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Anne Pasek, Steward, GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Joe Piette, NALC Br 157 (retired)(Philadelphia, PA)
Daniel Pines, CSEA Local 0828 (Rochester, NY)
Kristin Plys, GESO/Yale (Göttingen, Germany)
Andrew Pollack, Former Shop Steward, District 65-UAW (Brooklyn, NY)
Stephanie Pope, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Staten Island, NY)
Tom Potter, AFSCME Local 3650, HUCTW; Socialist Alternative (Cambridge, MA)
Minnie Bruce Pratt, NWU/UAW Local 1981 (Syracuse, NY)
Nathaniel Preus, GSOC-UAW Local 2110, (NYC)
James Prothero, IBT Local 155 (Mission, BC)
Linda Ray, Co-chair, Peace & Solidarity Committee, SEIU Local 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
Eric Robson, Steward and Trustee, AFSCME Local 171 (Madison, WI)
Laurence S. Romsted, AAUP-AFT Rutgers University (Highland Park, NJ)
Marco Antonio Rosales, UAW Local 2865 Unit Chair (Davis, CA)
Sandra Rosen, Former Solidarity Committee Co-chair, HUCTW/AFSCME (retired), (Cambridge, MA)
Mimi Rosenberg, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Susan Rosenthal, NWU/UAW Local 1981 (Canada)
Andrew Ross, President, NYU-AAUP (NYC)
Gillian Russom, Area Chair, Board of Directors, UTLA/AFT Local 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
James W. Ryder, Collective Bargaining Director (retired), CNA/NNU (Oakland, CA)
Carl Sack, Membership Secretary, AFT Local 3220 (UW-Madison Teaching Assistants' Association)
Rodrigo Santelices, ALAA/UAW 2325 (NYC)
Heike Schotten, Faculty Staff Union at University of Massachusetts Boston; Executive Committee, MTA
Gerry Scoppettuol, Co-founder, Pride at Work, Boston AFL-CIO; past member, District 65/UAW
Mary Scully, Women's, Safety, and Education committees, IUE-CWA Local 201 (retired), (McAllen, TX)
Richard Seaford, UCU (Exeter, UK)
Kim Scipes, Former Chair, Chicago Chapter, NWU/UAW Local 1981
Snehal Shingavi, TSEU/CWA Local 6186 (Austin, TX)
Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 (Toronto, ON)
Sid Shniad, Research Director, Telecommunications Workers Union (retired)(Vancouver, BC)
Alexandra Smith, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Linda Sneed, Campus Rep., AFT 2279 (Sacramento, CA)
Nancy Snyder, Recording Secretary Emeritus, SEIU Local 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
Edward Stiel, IBEW Local 302 (San Francisco, CA)
Susan Stout, Retirees Secretary, Unifor Local 2002 (N. Vancouver, BC)
Garrett Strain, UAW Local 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Uri Strauss, Steward, UAW Local 2320 (Springfield, MA)
Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707, Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement (Brooklyn, NY)
Cynthia Taylor, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (NYC)
Steve Terry, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Will Thomas, NEA (NH)
Miriam Thompson, UAW Local 259 (retired)(Chapel Hill, NC)
Joanne Tien, Steward, UAW Local 2865 (Oakland, CA)
Azalia Torres, ALAA/UAW Local 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (Oakland, CA)
Burnis E. Tuck, AFGE Local 3172 (retired); IWW (Fresno, CA)
Mar Velez, Former President, UAW 2865 (Oakland, CA)
Karen Walker, Postings Officer, CUPE 3903 (ON)
Dr. Peter Waterman, ABVA-KABO, FNV (retired) (The Hague, Netherlands)
Barry Weisleder, OSSTF (Toronto, ON)
Dave Welsh, NALC Branch 214; Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
Nancy Welch, United Academics, VTAFT/AAUP (Burlington, VT)
Paul Werner, Former member, ACT-UAW Local 7902 (Vienna, Austria)
Edwina White, SEIU Local 1000 (retired)(Sacramento, CA)
Rand Wilson, SEIU Local 888 (Somerville, MA)
Ella Wind, Unit Rep., NYU GSOC-UAW Local 2110; Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
Sherry Wolf, Lead Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT; CWA Local 1032
Marc Wutschke, House of Reps., AFT Local 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nantina Vgontzas, GSOC-UAW Local 2110 (NYC)
Sabina Virgo, Past and Founding President, AFSCME Local 2620 (retired) (Los Angeles, CA)
John Yanno, Delegate, UFT/AFT Local 2 (Brooklyn, NY)

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