Berkeley, Calif., Dec. 10 — United Auto Workers Local 2865, a statewide University of California student-worker union local, became, according to their press release, the “first major U.S. labor union to support divestment from Israel by membership vote.” Sixty-five percent of the members at nine UC campuses voted yes on a ballot which read:
“Should the UAW 2865 and its members join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, until such time as Israel has complied with international law and respected the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and all Palestinians refugees and exiles?”
The measure calls on the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; the UAW International to divest from these same entities; and the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel. In addition, there was a check box on whether to adhere to the academic and research boycott of Israeli institutions. Some 52 percent pledged to support the academic boycott.
“This vote was a first step in our commitment to solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and facing discriminatory laws,” said Kumars Salehi, a UCB grad student and local member, “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.”
In July the union’s joint council, comprised of 83 elected officers from nine campuses, had issued a paper quoting a statement by Palestinian trade unions that called for “arms embargoes on Israel, sanctions that would cut off the supply of weapons and military aid from Europe and the United States on which Israel depends to commit such war crimes … [And] Boycott, divestment and sanctions, as called for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society in 2005.”
Workers World spoke to David McCleary, a grad student at UCB and rank-and-file member of the BDS caucus of the local. McCleary explained that, “In July at the height of Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, someone put forward a BDS proposal at the joint council meeting, in the form of an open letter. It says the union endorses BDS and calls for a vote to affirm that. People were organizing from then on, trying to educate members. Another joint council meeting finalized the wording of the resolution.”