Court blocks local union vote to support Palestine

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (ALAA)-United Auto Workers Local 2325 represents 2,700 legal and social services workers in the New York City area. The local attempted to conduct a membership-wide vote Nov. 17 on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

But just 20 minutes before the online poll was set to close, a judge in Nassau County, which contains Long Island suburbs of New York City, issued a temporary restraining order blocking the vote from going forward. The injunction was requested by four Nassau County attorneys, all Local 2325 members, who claimed Jewish attorneys, clients and jurors would be harmed if the resolution passed. 

Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Felice J. Muraca, after a hearing Nov. 21 where Local 2325 members and supporters packed the courtroom, extended the temporary order barring the vote. No concrete evidence of antisemitism in the union’s resolution was presented. In fact, a number of the attorneys involved in drafting and campaigning for the resolution are Jewish.

The courts are no friends of labor, having issued countless injunctions against striking unions to limit picketing. But this might be the first time a court blocked a secret ballot vote by the membership of a union. This court order is a flagrant violation of the union’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. 

Judge continues anti-union harassment

Legal Aid Society CEO Twyla Carter tried to intimidate the union after some law firms threatened to withhold financial support over Local 2325’s solidarity with Palestine. Carter reportedly characterized the resolution as “selfish and privileged” with “coded antisemitic language.” (Huffington Post, Nov. 22)

While the results of the disrupted vote are unknown, the resolution had a high likelihood of passing. In 2022, the ALAA voted by an overwhelming majority to urge the UAW to divest from Israeli bonds. The blocked vote on the recent resolution was launched after the union’s Joint Council voted 108 to 13 to bring it to the rank and file.

Local 2325 has resisted previous attacks on its pro-Palestine statements. Legal Aid Society management had pressured the ALAA chapter representing Bronx Defenders attorneys not to pass a resolution, which said in part, “we do not consent to Israel’s genocidal rhetoric and actions against the Palestinian people and we do not consent to U.S. political support for this genocide.” After the resolution passed, the New York Post viciously attacked the union. The agency the attorneys work for was threatened with loss of funding.

Undeterred by legal and managerial repression, after Judge Muraca’s ruling, ALAA members gathered on the courthouse steps and took turns reading sections of their resolution. It said in part, “We call for an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation and blockade of Palestinian land, sea, and air by Israeli military forces.”

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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