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Labor Support for Palestinians

The opposition to the war in Gaza by U.S. Labor Unions began early, with historically progressive Unions speaking out first. Local 10 of the International Longshoreman Workers Union (ILWU) passed a resolution on November 17, which sends “a message to the PGFTU [Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions] expressing our solidarity and determination to take action in their defense consistent with our actions in the past and the ILWU’s principled position of defending Palestinian rights.”The resolution also calls the October 7 Hamas-led surprise attack that killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis “indefensible,” and states that “the UN calls Gaza an ‘open air prison’ of 2.2 million Palestinians. Under such repressive conditions it is no surprise that there would inevitably be a rebellion but this in no way justifies Israel’s genocidal bombing of civilians in Gaza.”“We additionally call on other trade unions both natio0nally and internationally to support PGFTU [Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions], a ceasefire and an end to Israeli apartheid oppression. . . ”

In addition to Local 10, the UE and UFCW Local 3000 based in the State of Washington started a Labor call for a cease fire in early November and  it has been signed by unions across the country, including the Chicago Teachers Union, UAW Regions 6 and 9A, SEIU-United Service Workers West (USWW), IBEW Local 520, and more. This call includes the following language “We, members of the American labor movement, mourn the loss of life in Israel and Palestine. We express our solidarity with all workers and our common desire for peace in Palestine and Israel, and we call on President Joe Biden and Congress to push for an immediate ceasefire and end to the siege of Gaza. We cannot bomb our way to peace. We also condemn any hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, or anyone else.”  Another call for the U.S to stop its support of Israel’s war activities.

On November 8 the general officers of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) issued a statement “call[ing] on our government, which is the primary foreign benefactor of the Israeli government, to use all its power to protect innocent lives and to help bring about peace in the region, and not use our tax dollars for more war.”  The statement also says, that the APWU is “shocked and saddened by the tragic and ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine. As working people, we stand with the oppressed and the innocent, thousands of whom have lost their lives in the last month.”

“As a union that stands for equality, social justice, human and labor rights, and international solidarity, we unite with unions and people of goodwill around the world in calls for justice and peace.”

“We unreservedly condemn the Hamas violence of October 7, which killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians and saw the kidnapping of more than 200 people.”

“However, Israel’s response has made the prospects for peace more remote. Over 10,000 innocent civilians, including 4000 children, have been killed by the relentless and indiscriminate bombing campaign on Gaza. Israel has shut off the flow of food, water, fuel and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, a war crime. A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding every day in Gaza. Thousands more innocent civilians stand to die wholly preventable deaths.”  

Finally on February 8th, after the above cited activities by its affiliates, the National AFL-CIO released the following statement, “The AFL-CIO condemns the attacks by Hamas on October 7th and calls for a negotiated cease-fire in Gaza—including the immediate release of all hostages and provision of desperately needed shelter, food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to Gazans—and reaffirms our support of a two-state solution for long-term peace and security.”

The support for PGFTU in the U.S. Labor Movement has mostly come via these statements of support.  However, some Unions on college campuses are beginning to work with student anti-war activities.  Most notably, the Dartmouth Student Workers Collective (DSWC) which a chapter of the DSA has cited as the first such instance.

Labor Unions in Europe and other parts of the world have taken the call for support from the PGFTU many steps further than their U.S. counterparts.  

In Spain, workers at the Port of Barcelona refused to transport weapons to Israel and demanded an immediate cease-fire.

Workers at the aerospace company Airbus in Getafe, Spain, organized a march within their factory, displaying a banner: “Airbus workers stand in solidarity with Palestine, no to arms sales to Israel.”

Fourteen Spanish unions and two hundred civil society organizations launched a campaign calling on their government to end the arms trade with Israel.

And unionists from the Catalan Trade Unions Association protested Israel Chemical Limited–Iberia, a subsidiary of ICL Group, which provides Monsanto/Bayer with phosphates to produce white phosphorus for the US military, which in turn supplies it to Israel.

In Belgium, several transportation unions called on their members not to transport weapons by air, after some reported seeing shipments headed for Israel.

In Italy, dockworkers at the northern Port of Genoa from the independent union Colletivo Autonomo Lavoratori Portuali, with community allies, on November 10 blockaded the movement of cargo onto a ship operated by the Israeli shipping line ZIM. The same ship then faced protests at the southern Port of Salerno.

On November 30, dockworkers affiliated with the European Dockworkers Council took their first major coordinated action across ports in several countries.

India’s twelve union federations, representing one hundred million workers, are strongly opposing talks to send one hundred thousand construction workers to replace the Palestinian workers whose work permits Israel has canceled.

In Canada, indigenous and rank-and-file union organizers boldly shut down four arms factories that were selling weapons to Israel. Workers and community members closed L3Harris plants for the day in Hamilton, Toronto, and Montreal, as well as Lockheed Martin in Ottawa. Labor activists blocked entrances to GeoSpectrum in Dartmouth, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, a major Israeli arms company.

In the UK, momentum is growing after two successful pickets, including four hundred unionists blocking the entry to the BAE System’s factory in Rochester, in Kent. The campaign by Workers for a Free Palestine aims to draw attention to the role Britain plays in the supply chain of weaponry used by Israel.

Actions escalated on December 7, with one thousand workers blockading arms factories in Bournemouth, Lancashire, Brighton, and Glasgow to halt the production of components for the F-35 fighter jet. There was coordination for similar actions in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Workers in Palestine, the group formed by Palestinian unions, has created a number of online resources for building solidarity with Palestine including: 

guidance sheet for unions  

a companion guide for community activists, and a model motion.

The comprehensive “Who Arms Israel?” toolkit offers guidance for action and suggests locations. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Leonardo, and Raytheon all provide arms crucial to the Israeli military.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/ilwu-unions-ceasefire-israel-gaza/

https://www.ueunion.org/political-action/2023/labor-calls-for-ceasefire-in-israel-and-palestine-grow

https://secure.everyaction.com/w1qW7B3pek2rTtv9ny5bqw2

https://apwu.org/news/international/statement-apwu-general-officers-conflict-israel-and-palestine

https://apnews.com/article/starbucks-workers-united-union-lawsuit-israel-palestinian-f212a994fef67f122854a4df7e5d13f5

https://inthesetimes.com/article/labor-israel-war-genocide-gaza-capitalism-union-ceasefire-strike-manufacture

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/weekly-shift/2023/10/30/how-unions-are-responding-to-the-israel-hamas-war-00124176#:~:text=AFL%2DCIO%20in%20a%20statement,Gaza%20and%20throughout%20the%20region.”

https://jacobin.com/2023/12/palestine-gaza-unions-workers-solidarity-international-movement-weapons-trade


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