Unions say, ‘Divest from the Israeli war machine’

Boston, Oct. 22, 2023.

On Oct. 16, 32 Palestinian labor organizations issued a joint “urgent call” to unionists around the world to “end all complicity, stop arming Israel.” 

Although major unions in the U.S. have for the most part been silent on the unfolding genocide or, worse, have expressly stated their support for Israel, there have been encouraging examples of solidarity.

Starbucks Workers United put out a powerful statement, proclaiming that the members “stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.” SBWU pointed out that union-buster Starbucks has attacked union supporters for supporting Palestine, using their position to “make false statements against our union and to vilify us.” (Starbucks Workers United on X) 

UAW Local 2710 – Student Workers of Columbia took a pro-Palestine position, demanding the university “divest from the Israeli war machine and protect our community!” (Student Workers of Columbia on X) The Professional Staff Congress (American Federation of Teachers Local 2334), Graduate Center, representing professors at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, passed a resolution saying, in part, “Let it be resolved that the PSC-GC EC condemns the CUNY administration’s political persecution of Palestinian students, community members and Palestine solidarity activists in recent days.”

Over 400 activists from a range of unions across the country attended a Zoom call held Oct. 19 on building labor support for Palestine. The call, organized by U.S. Labor Against War and Racism, included Clarence Thomas, a third-generation member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, now retired. Thomas described Local 10’s long history of solidarity with Palestine, including refusing to unload Israeli ships. 

Since the call, some 23,000 unionists have signed a petition, initiated by United Electrical Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 3000, directed to the heads of the major U.S. unions, urging them to support a call for a ceasefire in Palestine. (to send email, see: tinyurl.com/yckrxyc9)

In a mass march for Palestine in Brooklyn, New York, Oct. 21 and a Boston march the next day, UAW members, including graduate students and legal service workers, organized a UAW contingent. 

The Boston School Bus Drivers Union (United Steelworkers Local 8751) plugged the mass demonstration, called with the theme “All out for Gaza.” The march was led through the streets by a sound truck built and organized by Boston Labor for Palestine. Union boilermakers, electricians and carpenters provided the vehicle and ensured its safe construction.

The truck became the march sound stage for the Palestinian leadership. The highly visible labor contingent was widely acknowledged by the speakers and crowd. Steve Kirschbaum, representing Local 8751, was the labor speaker; the union’s President André François played a prominent role in the new coalition’s formation. Workers of many nationalities and several dozen unions came out of the crowd to sign petitions and a banner.

World unions speak up

Unions around the world are backing Palestine. In Britain, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers appealed to their members to join a mass march in London to support Palestine.

A statement by the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) in France “demands that France, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, immediately mobilize the resources of its diplomacy to obtain an immediate ceasefire and so that the announced annihilation of northern Gaza, by a large-scale land, sea and air offensive, does not happen.” 

Further, the statement said “the criminalization of the expression of support for the Palestinian people who are victims of the bombings [must] immediately cease. The ban on solidarity gatherings with civilian populations damaged by the conflict is unacceptable!” (cgt.fr)

The World Federation of Trade Unions, whose affiliates represent 105 million workers, stated Oct. 12 that it “continues to stand consistently and principled beside the suffering and struggling people of Palestine and condemns the new barbaric offensive that has been launched, which aims to impose by brute force of arms the perpetuation of the occupation of the Palestinian land, the colonization

of Palestinian territories and the denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in peace and security.” (wftucentral.org)

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), a WFTU affiliate, said Oct. 20 it “conveys its complete solidarity with the people of Palestine, and calls on the working class of the world to stand against the horrifying war crimes being committed by Israel.” (wftucentral.org/aicctu)

Global working class solidarity is urgently needed. The new, militant leadership of some major unions in the U.S. needs to step up to the plate and build solidarity with Palestinian workers.


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