Victory: US student workers’ union backs Israel boycott in landslide vote

Student workers at the University of California have voted by a landslide to support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The votes, which were cast on 4 December by members of UAW Local 2865, resulted in 65 percent, or 1,411 members voting in support of a BDS resolution against 35 percent, or 749 members, voting against.

UAW Local 2865 has thus become the first labor union in the US to join the BDS movement.

The union represents 13,000 student workers in the University of California system. It joins a growing number of student governments, academic associations and activist organizations in the US which have pledged to hold Israel accountable for violations of human rights and to end the complicity by corporations and universities which profit from such violations.

The ballots asked union members to cast their vote to call on the University of California and UAW International to divest their holdings from Israeli state institutions and international companies “complicit in severe and ongoing human rights violations as part of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.”

UAW International is the central body of the United Auto Workers union, to which UAW Local 2865 is affiliated.

Members were also able to tick a box saying that they would personally refuse to take part in any “research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored” by Israeli institutions, a voluntary personal pledge.

Fifty-two percent of the voting members signed on to the personal academic boycott pledge, UAW Local 2865 states.

Tireless organizing

Student activists, faculty and workers in the University of California system organized tirelessly to educate their campus communities about the growing BDS movement and the important campaigns in solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts under Israeli occupation.

In the past two years, two-thirds of all University of California student governments have passed resolutions calling on the administration to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s violations of human rights.

In an open letter published a few weeks before the 4 December vote, 121 members of faculty around the world encouraged UAW Local 2865 to take a stand in solidarity with Palestinians.

“[F]aculty across the country have taken a position on the right side of history by supporting Palestinian self-determination and supporting BDS as a vehicle to challenge Israel’s violations of human rights,” the scholars wrote.

“Similar racism in apartheid South Africa led to students and professors in the US engaging in boycott and divestment; increasingly, they are doing the same to challenge bigoted Israeli policies and laws that are upheld by unconditional US support.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post indicated that 112 members of faculty signed a letter to UAW Local 2865. That number has been updated.

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It was unions and its workers in America that did so much to bring down South African apartheid. I am very pleased to see American union workers now take on the cause of apartheid against Palestinians. The longshoremens' union in California was instrumental in preventing the unloading of Israeli goods in California ports. I hope to see other American unions stand up for the rights of the people in Palestine.

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This victory came in spite of Israel paying its students to write good things 'Hasbara' about Israel .

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Well done,, about time Israel starts to understand it ain't immune and this sort of thing will only snowball with time

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).