International Reports
A Break with the Past US Labour Unions in Solidarity with Palestine
by Tamarai

Crimes Against Humanity: Israel's Horrific Actions in Gaza

We are watching with horror the genocide that is taking place in Gaza in Palestine by Israel's military supported by the U.S. for more than four months. This has led to the deaths of nearly 30,000 people in Gaza. More than twice that number have been grievously injured. Only one in three hospitals are partially functional as medical facilities and infrastructure have been targeted by Israel. 75% of the 2.3 million population of Gaza are internally displaced.

South Africa with its glorious history of fighting apartheid took Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Hague charging it with genocide. On January 26, 2024, the ICJ ordered Israel to take measures to prevent acts amounting to genocide and ensure that services reach the affected people in Palestine. The Economist/YouGov poll results released in January, 2024 showed that 35% of Americans believed that Israel was committing genocide in Palestine with 29% undecided. 49% in the age group 18-49 agreed with the term genocide and 27% were undecided.The horrific attacks against the people of Gaza are continuing while people all over the world have taken to the streets in large numbers again and again.

Not On Our Watch: Workers and Unions are Rallying in Support of Palestine

Martha Grevatt, a retired Stellantis worker who served on the executive board of United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Locals 122 and 869 and a long time anti-war activist, spoke to me about her impressions on the response of workers and unions in the U.S. and their solidarity with the Palestinian people. "While some unions have been silent or, worse, declared “solidarity” with the Zionist state of Israel, the unions with a progressive stance now represent a majority of union members in the U.S.". While she is happy with a significant number of unions in the U.S. who have issued statements calling for a ceasefire in Palestine, she adds that "merely calling for a ceasefire is inadequate — unions must honor the call from 30 Palestinian labor organizations for workers to block shipment of weapons to Israel. But given the reactionary, staunchly pro-Zionist position of organized labor in the U.S. until now, calling for a ceasefire represents a significant break with the past."

AFL-CIO the largest labor federation in the U.S., which represents nearly 13 million workers, finally released a statement on February 8th for a negotiated ceasefire -  some say better late than never!  The rank and file workers had already pressured several unions like American Postal Workers Union, United Electric Workers, Communication Workers of America, Service Employees International Union to make ceasefire statements soon after Israel started to carpet bomb Gaza and cut off food and water supply.  Some like the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 3000 and United Electric Workers started a petition less than two weeks from the commencement of Israeli actions demanding a ceasefire. Starbucks United was also one of the first unions to oppose Israel's actions. The National Writers Union issued a statement on October 13, "… in a massive ethnic cleansing, Israel is forcibly displacing more than a million people as it prepares a ground invasion. All of this violates international law, which the Israeli government has done with impunity for decades and with the material and political support of the U.S.".

Not Another Nickel, Not Another Dime, No More Money for Israel's Crimes

On Jan 13, 2024, the Oakland port's operations in California was shut down by 3000 strong workers and activists. The action was co-organized by Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The port has been used to transport weapons, technology and other assistance to Israel in addition to facilitating transfer of military aid in U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Jimmy Salameh, a Palestinian longshoreman and member of ILWU Local 10 said to AROC, "I have worked at the port for 10 years, and I can say for a fact that there was no business as usual out here today...".

Zachary Valdez a labor organizer with UAW as reported in said, "Labor movement has the power to disrupt supply chains … workers can shut down everything".

Masters of War and United Resistance

Israel has received $300 billion dollars in aid from the U.S. in the last 75 years  and most of this is for military assistance. The U.S. has promised another $4 billion per year until 2028. AFL-CIO has supported Israel for many decades, and has millions of dollars as investments in Israeli state bonds. That said, there is hope and optimism that change is in the air. Gerry Scoppettuoloi, who is an anti-war activist and the Vice President of the Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO, official AFL-CIO LGBTQ Constituency Group, spoke to me after attending a rally for Palestine where people from many nationalities came together in thousands, "Organized labor in the U.S. has not been as united in this way since the 1980s when a majority of labor opposed the Reagan/Kissinger support of death squads in Honduras, fascist national police in El Salvador, and the Contras in Nicaragua.” Gerry is encouraged by the “flowering of labor  internationalism that is showing no signs of letting up" and the countless protests all over the country by youth and the organized left against the merciless bombings of Palestinians by the Israeli forces.

The U.S anti-war movement has seen a resurgence.The demands of the movement include an immediate end to the assault on Gaza by Israel, an end to all of U.S. aid to Israel, reparations to Palestinians, return of all the occupied land, and the Palestinians right to return. Working class organizations, Jewish Voices for Peace, communist parties, faith-based organizations  and youth are coming together against  the U.S. and Israel's ongoing genocide of Palestinians. And together they are chanting "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free".

US Labour Unions in Solidarity with Palestine