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January 25, 2016

Time Sensitive: Sign Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Labor Solidarity, and BDS

From: Letwin, Michael
Date: Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:12 PM
Subject: Time Sensitive: Sign Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Labor Solidarity, and BDS

Fellow union members,

Like ongoing attempts to silence Palestinian human rights advocates at The Legal Aid Society, International UAW leaders have unilaterally “nullified” a non-binding resolution, overwhelmingly adopted by the members of UAW 2865, in support of the growing BDS movement.

To support UAW 2865, please consider signing the statement below, and forward to other interested union members.

The deadline for initial signers is end of the day tomorrow.

Thanks!

Michael

==Please forgive cross-postings–

Dear fellow trade unionist:

To be listed as an initial signer of the statement below, please complete the form posted here by 5pm EST on Tuesday, January 26.

Feel free to circulate the statement to other interested trade unionists, but please do not post publicly until you have received the final version with initial signatures attached.

The statement will then be posted at Change.org for additional signers.

In solidarity,

Labor for Palestine Co-Conveners:

Suzanne Adely, U.S.-MENA Global Labor Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW

Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW L. 2325

Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU L. 10 (retired)

Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union L. 100, NYC (retired)

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Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Labor Solidarity, and BDS
Labor for Palestine, January 24, 2016

As workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists, we call on the United Auto Workers International Executive Board to rescind its undemocratic and arbitrary “nullification” of UAW 2865’s support for Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the 13,000 teaching assistants and student-workers at the University of California in 2014.

Biased 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 in citing supposed harm to the profits of military contractors. Enlisting in a well-funded witch-hunt designed to silence those who speak up for Palestinian rights, it falsely calls BDS as “anti-Semitic.”

In doing so, it disregards more than a century of colonialism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, including Israel’s establishment through the uprooting and displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), a regime that veteran South African freedom fighters call “worse than apartheid.”

It is blind to $3.1 billion a year in U.S. military aid that Israel used to massacre of 2200 Palestinians (including 500 children) in Gaza in 2014, and to inflict a 10-year high in overall Palestinian casualties in 2015.

It ignores the pro-BDS position of Black Lives Matter activistsJewish members of UAW 2865, and the international labor movement.

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 fails to recognize that BDS is entirely consistent with past UAW support for boycotts organized by the Civil Rights MovementUnited Farm Workers, and 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 Labor Zionism, a racist ideology that targets indigenous Palestinian rights.

In the 1940s, UAW and other top U.S. labor leaders actively supported the Nakba. UAW president Walter Reuther became 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.

Rank-and-File Resistance

In the past, rank-and-file UAW members have challenged this pro-apartheid stance.

In January 1969, the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers publicly condemned Israeli colonialism. On October 14, 1973, three thousand 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 the B’nai B’rith’s “Humanitarian Award” to UAW International President Leonard Woodcock.

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 non-binding resolution by a landslide sixty-five 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.

As the 2865 BDS Caucus recently reaffirmed in response to the IEB: “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.”

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Please also sign: Support Student Workers’ Historic BDS Vote

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