Labor calls for ceasefire grow

Press conference calling for a ceasefire with Congressional Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush and UAW President Shawn Fain, Dec. 14, 2023.

A number of major U.S. unions have united around the call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Seven of them, along with over 200 local and regional labor bodies, announced Feb. 16 that they had formed the National Labor Network for Ceasefire. Together, these unions represent nine million workers and over 60% of U.S. union members. 

Other unions that are not part of the Network but have joined the voices for a ceasefire include the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers and the Service Employees Union. The AFL-CIO, the federation most unions belong to, belatedly issued a weak ceasefire statement Feb. 8. Other big unions, including the Teamsters union, the United Steelworkers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have still failed to take a position.

The National Education Association, American Postal Workers Union, United Auto Workers, Association of Flight Attendants, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, International Association of Painters and Allied Trades are the seven countrywide unions in the NLNC. The NEA is the largest union in the U.S.

“The UAW has a long tradition of calling for peace and justice for working-class people across the globe, and we live that tradition today,” said UAW President Shawn Fain in the news release announcing the NLNC’s formation. “In that spirit, we call for an immediate end to the U.S. government’s funding and support of this brutal assault on Gaza.”

This shift away from blanket support for Israel by organized labor in the U.S. is a major development.

Calling for peace, backing warmonger Biden

Fain spoke at a Network-sponsored webinar Feb. 22, along with NEA President Becky Pringle and Congressional Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Summer Lee. While calling for a ceasefire, Pringle also stressed the necessity of reelecting President Joe Biden, despite his having earned the nickname “Genocide Joe.” 

The UAW endorsed and gave the podium to Biden at a union conference in January in Washington, D.C. Then the union hosted him at UAW Region 1 headquarters in Michigan — while about 200 Arab activists protested outside! 

If they haven’t done so already, all of the Network member unions are likely to endorse Biden at some point. 

This contradiction — urging a ceasefire while endorsing the funder-in-chief of the genocide in Gaza — exposes the limitations of these union leaders. They attack Hamas and demand the release of the Israeli hostages but not of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails for the crime of resisting apartheid. 

The NLNC program does not include support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and doesn’t demand the U.S. cut off aid to the Zionist state. It makes no reference to the call issued by Palestinian unions for workers to block production and shipment of weapons intended for Israel.

What is most needed now is a mobilization of the whole working class, unionized and unorganized, in full solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and united in opposition to the imperialist Biden administration.


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