The Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), part of United Auto Workers Local 2110, also voted for stewards and delegates, defying the parent union’s declaration last week of an election by acclamation after disqualifying more than half of GSOC’s candidates.
After 38 percent of the union’s more than 2,000 members cast ballots this week, GSOC announced that the results are “clear evidence of a strong mandate for those elected” and a sign of members’ “commitment to the democratic process.”
Many of the candidates who had been disqualified were elected with strong margins.
Two-thirds voted “Yes” to a question on whether GSOC should join the BDS movement until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian rights.
The petition that triggered the referendum, signed by more than 300 members, calls on NYU and the UAW’s national organization – known in US labor parlance as the international – to “withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights.”
Israel has frequently barred entry or harassed visitors who are Muslim or of Arab or other Middle Eastern ancestry, including US citizens.
The UAW international nullified a similar BDS resolution passed by University of California graduate student workers, UAW Local 2865, in 2014. The local union is currently appealing the nullification to the UAW Public Review Board.
The president of UAW Local 2110 in New York had tried to persuade GSOC to postpone this week’s BDS referendum pending the outcome of the California case.
In addition, 58 percent, or 366 GSOC members, voted to adhere to the academic boycott, agreeing to refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities.
“This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide,” Shafeka Hashash, a member of the GSOC for BDS caucus, said in a press release.
“NYU’s GSOC referendum set an important precedent for both solidarity with Palestine and for union democracy,” the press release added.
“The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students,” stated Maya Wind, another member of GSOC for BDS.
Wind had initially been disqualified as a candidate by the local, but was elected to a steward position with 32 percent of the votes. Only one other candidate received as large a share of the votes.
“We are disappointed by this vote from one student group, but it will not change CUNY’s position,” Millikin said.
The two recent BDS victories in New York come at a time when state legislators are pushing for a crackdown on Palestine solidarity activism.
In January, New York lawmakers introduced bills in the lower house and senate that would require state officials to publish a blacklist of supporters of the BDS movement.
The state senate passed its version of the law, which applies to boycotts of any nation allied to the US, and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
The proposed laws would bar those on the blacklist from working with state agencies. The bill would also prohibit state pension funds from investing in companies engaged in politically motivated boycotts of Israel.