US trade union undeterred by legal assault over Israel boycott

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) says it is unfazed by an Israeli group’s legal attack over its vote last summer to back the Palestinian call to boycott Israel.

In August, the 30,000-strong UE became only the second national trade union in the US to back boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) by a vote of delegates at its annual convention.

This week, Shurat HaDin filed a complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board to try to force the union to abandon its decision.

Shurat HaDin is an Israeli organization linked to Israel’s Mossad spying and assassination agency that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights, a strategy known as lawfare.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Shurat HaDin is accusing UE of violating the US National Labor Relations Act which “prohibits labor unions from encouraging workers to take part in boycotts during the course of their work duties, commonly known as ‘secondary boycotts.’”

The complaint alleges that supporters of BDS are “singling out” Israel – a frequent charge made by anti-Palestinian groups – while making “no attempt to boycott countries or entities which hang homosexuals; torture political opposition; or deny voting rights to their citizenry,” the Post states.

Shurat HaDin is seeking “injunctive relief” – a judge’s order – to prevent UE from “engaging in these unfair labor practices, which single out and discriminate against Israelis and Israeli companies,” the Post adds.

The UE resolution that Shurat HaDin is seeking to overturn calls on the US to end all military aid to Israel and for pressure on Israel “to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees.”

The complaint was filed by Shurat HaDin’s director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and New York attorney David Abrams.

But the union is confident that the anti-Palestinian group’s effort to circumvent its democratic process and solidarity will fail.

“There is a long tradition of nonviolent protest against human rights abuses that includes boycotts,” UE’s director of international strategies Leah Fried told The Electronic Intifada.

Fried added: “This attempt to end that peaceful protest with a charge filed at the National Labor Relations Board is not founded in law and will surely be dismissed.”

This week, the BDS National Committee, the broad Palestinian coalition that leads the BDS movement, called for an international “wave of solidarity” in face of intensified Israeli violence against Palestinians under occupation.

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And school children will sue other children because they don't want to be their friends? Ha. Israel is going to sue itself into the hearts and minds of people? How silly is that.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.