This Thursday, members of UAW 2865, the union that represents 13,000 graduate student instructors, readers and tutors at the nine undergraduate teaching campuses of the statewide University of California system, will vote on whether to endorse joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as a labor union. This is the first election of its kind on BDS by a labor union in the United States.
Plans for the election were made this summer, when the statewide Joint Council of UAW 2865 became the first such union body in the United States to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Rather than simply take a position as the elected union leadership, however, the Joint Council decided to put the issue to a vote of the full membership. The original resolution passed by the Joint Council can be found here. At their October meeting, the Joint Council passed further resolutions clarifying their positions on BDS, including a statement on why they view BDS as a labor movement issue, an FAQ on BDS, and a fact sheet on the academic boycott.
In response to the original July resolution calling for a full membership vote on BDS, nearly fifty current and former Jewish members and officers of the union signed on to an open letter in support of the resolution, expressing our solidarity with Palestinian people and people everywhere struggling against Israeli injustice. The letter reflects our belief that we have a responsibility as Jews and as trade unionists to support the struggles of oppressed people around the world.
Open Letter from Jewish Officers and Members in Support of Divestment
As Jewish officers and members, both current and former, of UAW 2865, the UC Student-Workers Union, we are writing to express our support for the recent divestment resolution passed by our local union’s Joint Council.
An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere and none of us is free until all of us are free. As Jews, we understand from our own experiences with discrimination and our own history of resistance to oppression that standing on the right side of history necessitates standing in solidarity with Palestinians. For that reason, we are proud to be counted among the growing number of Jews and trade unionists around the the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to this issue.
We are speaking out today against our government, employer and national labor union’s complicity in Israel’s actions through military aid and investment in corporations that profit from the occupation. Additionally, we are encouraging our fellow members to support the academic and cultural boycott in order to take a stand for Palestinian academics and cultural workers suffering under the apartheid system. Students and workers at the University of California participated vigorously in the global campaign to divest from South African apartheid in the 1980s, and we seek to build upon that legacy and its tactics.
As Jews, we feel an urgent need at the present moment to say “Not in our name” as Palestinian civilian deaths climb past 1000 and Israel commits human rights violations with impunity. And as trade unionists, we feel an obligation to express our solidarity with Palestinians living under a system of legal apartheid, as well as our solidarity with Israelis and people around the world who stand in opposition to this system.
We affirm our right and responsibility as Jews to oppose the State of Israel’s actions and policies that we believe to be unjust. Additionally, we affirm our belief that Israel’s current siege of Gaza does not make Jews safer in Israel or around the world. We hope that honest critique will lead to positive change.
Therefore, we urge all members to support the call for our employer, the University of California, and our national union, the United Auto Workers, to divest from corporations that benefit from Israeli occupation; for our government to end military aid to Israel; and for our members to support the academic and cultural boycott. A statewide membership vote will be held on this issue in the coming months.
Heather Berg, Member, Feminist Studies, UCSB
Michael Berman, Member, Anthropology, UCSD
Josh Brahinsky, Former Campus Recording Secretary (Joint Council), History of Consciousness, UCSC
Robert Cavooris, Campus Recording Secretary (Joint Council), History of Consciousness, UCSC
Mandy Cohen, Former Statewide Recording Secretary (Executive Board), Comparative Literature/Yiddish, UCB
Abigail Collins, Member, Art, UCLA
Barry Eidlin, Former Berkeley Head Steward (Joint Council) and current post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers
Kareem Elzein, Education and Information Studies, UCLA
Lisa Feldstein, Member, City and Regional Planning, UCB
Katy Fox-Hodess, Statewide Guide (Executive Board), Sociology, UCB
Eli Friedman, Former Berkeley member and current Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University
William Girard, Former Member, Anthropology alum, UCSC
Evan Grupsmith, Former Head Steward, History, UCSC
Mariel Gruszko, Member, Anthropology, UCI
Jessie Halpern-Finnerty, Member, Geography, UCD
Christoph Hanssmann, Member, Sociology, UCSF
Amanda Jenkins, Former Member, History alum, UCSC
Hannah Kagan-Moore, Member, Art History, UCD
Sarah Kessler, Member, Comparative Literature, UCI
Jonathan Koch, Member, Music, UCLA
Seth Leibson, Head Steward (Joint Council), Sociology, UCB
Rachel Lesser, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), Classics, UCB
Zachary Levenson, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), Sociology, UCB
Mike Levien, Former member and current Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins
Susie Levy, Member, Public Health, UCB
Roi Livne, Member, Sociology, UCB
Larisa Mann, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), Law and Jurisprudence, UCB
Ramsey McGlazer, Member, Comparative Literature, UCB
Robbie Nelson, Campus Recording Secretary (Joint Council), History, UCB
Kurt Newman, Member, History, UCSB
Dustianne North, Former Member, M.S.W. and Ph.D., School of Social Welfare, UCLA
Micha Rahder, Former Member, Anthropology alum, UCSC; currently Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Louisiana State University
Manuel Rosaldo, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), Sociology, UCB
Jocelyn Saidenberg, Member, Comparative Literature, UCB
Rebecca Schein, Former member, History of Consciousness alum, UCSC; currently Assistant Professor at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University.
Emily Schneider, Member, Sociology, UCSB
Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa, Member, Film and Digital Media, UCSC
Clara Sherley-Appel, Member, Linguistics, UCSC
Emma Silverman, Head Steward (Joint Council), Art History, UCB
Sara Smith, Former Northern Vice President (Executive Board), History Alum, UCSC
Tamara Lea Spira, Former Member, History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies alumna, UCSC
Noah Tamarkin, Former Member, Anthropology alum, UCSC
Rebecca Tarlau, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), Education, UCB
Alisun Thompson, Member, Education, Lecturer and Post-doctoral Researcher, UCSC
Maayan Tsadka, Member, Music, UCSC
Megan Wachspress, Former Campus Recording Secretary (Joint Council), Law and Jurisprudence, UCB
Eran Zelnik, Former Head Steward (Joint Council), History, UCD