Auto workers union fights internally over Israeli boycott policy

Palestinians and supporters protest outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, California, United States October 16, 2015. © Lucy Nicholson
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union at University of California at Berkeley is fighting to uphold a resolution passed in support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel after getting heat from within its own ranks.

UAW Local 2865, which includes some 14,000 student workers and teaching assistants, passed a resolution to support BDS in 2014. The resolution calls for:

the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; the US government to end military aid to Israel; 52 % of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.

UAW Local 2865 Resolution

READ MORE: Israel connects BDS with terrorism while cracking down on German banks

However, a pro-Israeli Apartheid faction within the union called Informed Grads appealed the result, with the help of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutche, a law firm that has defended Walmart, Amazon, and Chevron, as well as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and other defense companies that do business with the Mideast nation, according to Salon.

The International Executive Board defended the integrity of the vote, saying it represented the will of the members, but it also claimed BDS could interfere with the flow of commerce and pointed to the possibility of discrimination, despite the number of Jewish and Israeli members that supported the resolution and later wrote a letter attesting to the fact, according to a brief sent to Shadowproof's Roqayah Chamseddine. 

Following the decision, lawyer Scott Edelman expressed pleasure at the UAW’s “forceful rejection of BDS, which sets a powerful precedent for other labor unions and national organizations.”

UAW Local 2865 appealed the decision, reports Shadowproof, saying the “IEB improperly ignored the UAW constitutional mandate to solidify the labor movement and build solidarities with other unions, such as the Palestinian labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers who issued the call for BDS in 2005.”

The UAW Public Review Board will make a final ruling in the next few months, but in the meantime, the nullification has increased support for both the the 2865 and BDS movement among UC Berkeley staff.

Jennifer Mogannam, a PhD candidate at UC San Diego and member of the union, told Shadowproof the attacks are “part and parcel of the larger Zionist movement’s suppression and attacking of those fighting for Palestinian self-determination and against Israeli settler colonialism.”

A recent BDS victory that saw security firm G4S announce it would end its contracts in Israel has caused Florida country club members to partake in their own boycott.

The country club members are threatening to end G4S’s contract with their country clubs in a show of support for Israel.