Archive for the Labor Organizing Category

Open letter to UK Trades Union Congress General Secretary

Posted in International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

4th October 2010
Brendan Barber
General Secretary
Trades Union Congress
Congress House
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3LS

Dear Mr Barber,

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), of which all of Palestinian trade union federations are members, warmly welcomes the recent passing of a motion at the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) that sets out plans for boycotting the products of and divesting from Israeli and international companies that are implicated in Israel’s occupation and colonial settlements.

The global trade union movement has consistently demonstrated its commitment to Palestinian rights by adopting labour-led sanctions as a form of effective solidarity with Palestinians. In the wake of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and in response to appeals from the BNC1 and from the entire Palestinian trade union movement,2 dockworkers in Sweden and California, USA implemented blockades of Israeli goods and an Israeli ship respectively. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing over 80 million workers worldwide, called for a three-day strike against handling cargo to and from Israel.3 Dockworkers in India, Turkey, Norway and South Africa – where the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) pioneered the boycott against Israeli maritime trade in February 2009 by refusing to offload a ship in Durban in protest of Israel’s war of aggression on the Gaza Strip – also announced support and plans to implement blockades.4 The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has launched a campaign to make every municipality in South Africa an “Apartheid Israel free zone”.5 Earlier this year, trade union federations and coalitions in Belgium,6 Canada and the Basque country joined other national federations and scores of individual unions in endorsing the global BDS movement.7

Adopting measures in the framework of the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is the most morally consistent and prominent form of trade union solidarity with Palestinian civil society and with Palestinian workers, in particular.

With almost seven million members, the TUC is the largest organised civil society body in the UK. Its pledge to lobby the UK Government and the EU to take stronger steps to ensure that Israel complies with UN resolutions is therefore a welcome and important one. The BNC hopes that the TUC feels able to lobby for and take steps to ensure the recognition and implementation of all of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people – the end of the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied by Israel since 1967 and dismantling of the wall, the recognition of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and, crucially, the implementation of the Palestinian right to return as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BNC looks forward to the joint work between the TUC General Council and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to actively encourage the boycott of, and divestment from, companies that profit from Israel’s occupation. Given the size and important role of the TUC and UK trade unions in general, successful efforts to ensure that pension funds do not invest in corporate supporters of Israeli occupation and other violations of international law would have real and lasting political impacts. The BNC is hopeful about the prospects of such a pension divestment campaign as a necessary step towards the adoption of a full and comprehensive boycott of Israel, as called for by Palestinian civil society.

Given that the Scottish, Irish and South African Trade Union congresses have firmly endorsed BDS and are actively reviewing relations with the Histadrut as part of this process, and following the decision by UNISON and the UCU to take similar steps with regards to the Israeli trade union entity, the BNC is pleased that Congress condemns the Histadrut for seeking to justify the Israeli killing of civilians on the Freedom Flotilla. The Histadrut actively supported the 2008-09 Gaza massacre and is seen by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, including Palestinian trade unionists, as remaining just as vital to Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and Apartheid as it ever has been. The BNC hopes this latest step is part of a process that will result in the TUC adopting the position of some of its international counterparts and member unions by reviewing its relationship with the Histadrut.

The trade union movement played a crucial role in the international solidarity that contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa. A wide range of trade unions in the UK are making significant and principled contributions to the global movement against Israeli Apartheid. The BNC warmly welcomes the news that Congress has adopted such strong and principled steps within the BDS framework, and it looks forward to and is willing to assist in any way that it can, the implementation of these policies at the grassroots, branch level as part of a movement towards the full adoption of the Palestinian civil society BDS call.

Yours sincerely,

BNC Secretariat Occupied Palestine


Seven Million Back Biggest British Boycott

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Palestine Monitor
16 September 2010

At their annual conference this week the TUC, Britain’s all-encompassing trade union coalition, announced their most comprehensive boycott policy yet. It targets settlement goods as well as companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. The motion to boycott and disinvest from these companies passed unanimously on behalf of the TUC’s seven million members. The announcement will increase pressure on British retailers to cut ties with suspect suppliers.

A TUC spokesperson said: “The resolution is more focused than last year, and we’ll be putting more pressure on retailers, asking them to prove their supply chains don’t involve the occupied settlements.” Last year a similar motion had been tabled but was diluted by the powerful GMB union, and there were several abstentions and objections. This time the vote passed unopposed, seconded by the GMB. The wording of the statement included a “presumption of guilt” that requires companies to prove their profits are not related to settlements, the occupation or the separation barrier.

Although stopping short of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s hope for a boycott of all Israeli goods, the congress statement “encourages the general council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign”. This was received enthusiastically by the PSC, who feel the joint publicity will make the issues more mainstream.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber went on to criticise the siege of Gaza and the May raid on the aid flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead. Transport union TSSA President Andy Bain condemned a policy of “ethnic cleansing” from the Israeli government, adding “we are not against Jews – we are against the actions of the Israeli state.”

See the TUC promotional leaflet here

British trade unions to boycott Israel

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Published: Sept. 15, 2010 at 8:36 AM

MANCHESTER, England, Sept. 15 (UPI) — Britain’s trade union federation voted against lifting its boycott of Israeli goods and services from West Bank settlements, Israel Radio said.

At an annual conference in Manchester, England, the Trade Union Congress voted to strengthen ties with the radical Palestinian Solidarity Campaign but dropped plans to impose a full boycott on all Israeli goods, the radio report said Wednesday.

“Congress instructs the General Council to work closely with the PSC to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from and boycott the goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall,” the motion passed at Tuesday’s meeting said.

Hugh Lanning, chairman of campaign later said the motion “builds on that passed at last year’s conference. It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision not to implement a full boycott saying it was a blow to the boycott movement, The Jerusalem Post said.

TUC votes for campaign of boycott and disinvestment to free Palestine

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 14, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Press Release

For immediate release

Britain ’s unions have thrown their weight behind a campaign of disinvestment and boycott from companies which are profiting from Israel ’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

Trade unions voted unanimously today at the TUC’s annual conference for a motion put forward by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), seconded by the GMB, and supported by UNSION, PCS (the Public and Commercial Services Union) and the FBU (Fire Brigades’ Union).

The motion called for the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and construction of the Apartheid Wall.

It condemned Israel ’s blockade of the Palestinian territories, in particular Gaza , and the Israeli military’s deadly assault on aid ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in May. It also called for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza , and a full independent inquiry into the attack on the Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, which killed nine activists.

A separate General Council statement requires the TUC, which represents 6.5 million workers across the UK , to have a concrete programme for action in place by next month

Hugh Lanning, Chair of PSC, said: ‘This motion builds on that passed at last year’s conference to campaign for a boycott of goods from the illegal West Bank settlements. It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.’

Mr Lanning added: ‘Trade unions were pivotal in helping to end Apartheid in South Africa and bring freedom to that country’s people. Today’s vote shows that Britain’s unions are prepared to stand up again in support of an oppressed people – this time the Palestinians – and help them to win their freedom. This is an historic moment for the union movement in the UK , and one that it can be proud of.’

Media contact: Sarah Colborne

T: 07971 424 296

E: sarah.colborne[at]

Unions launch international anti-settlement campaign

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Labor Organizing on September 14, 2010 by Marcy Newman

SALFIT (Ma’an) – The General Federation of Trade Unions in Palestine announced Thursday the launch of an international campaign to support the decision to boycott the goods of Israeli settlements in global markets.

The campaign is in coordination and cooperation with various trade unions and international trade union organizations in solidarity with the Palestinians, as well as a number of socialist parties in European countries.

Secretary-General Shaher Saed said that the federation was raising funds to collect signatures in support of the union’s position and its efforts to stop dealing with the goods and products of settlements.

Washing Away Labor’s War Stain

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 8, 2010 by Marcy Newman

September 7, 2010

Why is Union Money Going Abroad?


Organized labor is joining with the NAACP in a “One Nation” jobs rally in Washington on October 2nd. No doubt they will be expecting anti-war folks to flock to it Lots of peace organizations have already done so

Trouble is the rally has no obvious peace focus at all. Look at the One Nation Working Together website. The demands are for jobs, education and equality for all. Nothing about peace even as a way to pay for jobs. Nothing about peace even though many, many unions have passed anti-war resolutions. Now there is a formation called “the Peace Table” that’s getting anti-war groups involved in the march, but what is “The Table” getting in return? Is it the poor relation allowed to come to the party as long as it stays out of sight?

And does organized labor deserve automatic support while it has a big war stain on its collar, the stain from the support its leaders give to Israeli Apartheid? They support it in two ways, by opposing the growing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel and by buying huge amounts of Israel Bonds. No sooner had Richard Trumka taken over command of the national AFL-CIO than he ran to a Jewish Labor Committee denouncing Israel “bashing” and any thought of boycott. Go to the JLC website and see how RWDSU and AFT leaders give cover to Israel for its crimes on the Mavi Marmara. Yet, words are secondary. The biggest help to Israeli Apartheid comes from union member dues and pension money going to State of Israel Bonds.

It’s, of course, quite right for unions to support unions in other countries. However, for U.S. unions to give financial support to foreign governments is unheard of …except in the case of Israel. Members dues are shoveled to Israel in the millions. No one knows how much. In 1988 Russell Mokhiber talked about a survey that stated unions held $250 million in the bonds. I wrote to my own union, the American Federation of Teachers, and asked what they have. The answer was they owned $300,000 of the bonds (and that’s just the national body. My guess is the New York City local has even more). In addition some unions manage their own pensions and own bonds while public employee unions sit silently while millions in their pensions are sent to Israel by State Treasurers.

The Israel Bonds site says the money goes for the development of “infrastructure” and it has pictures of highways and trains, but as far as I can tell the money raised for the bonds goes into the general Israel budget to be used for any purpose. Even if it is restricted to “development”, remember for an apartheid state development also includes settlements, settler-only roads and walls.

Why is Union Money Going Abroad?

Is there nothing in the United States in which unions can invest? What about U.S. “development”? There is a union owned bank, the Amalgamated, which was started by Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1923. It’s ownership was caught up in the SEIU – HERE fight, but that seems now to have been settled. Anyway, why is there just one union bank? Why not start others that would invest in worker run co-ops, or at least in the U.S.A.? At the very least invest in bonds of U.S. locales that need it, the Gulf, California, or Central Falls, Rhode Island. For a trade union movement railing against offshoring why is it sending hundreds of millions of dollars of capital overseas?

Unions are supposed to care for their brothers and sisters overseas. What about Palestinian workers, bombed to hell in Gaza, unable to travel to Jerusalem, stopped at checkpoints all over the West Bank, and beaten if they sneak into Israel to work? Even if they are Israeli citizens they’re kept out of whole industries and banned from living in 90% of the land.

There are Palestinian unions. 300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are members of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Their federation belongs to the same international federation as does the AFL-CIO. You would think U.S. unions would owe some loyalty to their union brothers and sisters, or at least some sympathy seeing that their national union headquarters in Nablus and Gaza were blown up by the Israeli air force earlier this decade.

Even Jewish Israeli workers take it on the chin. Once, the Israeli union federation the Histadrut was cock of the walk. It owned banks and industries, administered most workers’ health insurance and owned kibbutzim (collective farms) and a newspaper. But for decades Israeli governments have privatized and have chopped away most of what seemed exciting to us in American unions 30 and 40 years ago. Predictably Israeli Jewish workers suffered. Israel which once was a model of social equality (for Jews) now heads the list of Western nations in inequality.

And U.S. unions should be helping to maintain that injustice?

If union members knew about it would they let their money be invested in an apartheid state? In Connecticut some of us have been raising the issue for years. Last fall we brought it up to the Central Labor Council and the body voted unanimously to ask the state AFL-CIO to dump it tens of thousands of dollars of bonds. And in fact this year when its Israel bonds matured the CT AFL-CIO did not roll them over and so far has not purchased new ones.

It’s not as if U.S. unions were acting like other trade unions around the world. Unions internationally have condemned Israeli government actions and are joining in the BDS. Swedish dock workers boycotted Israeli ships for one week after the flotilla massacre. Similar actions happened in Australia and South Africa. The largest British union, UNISON, voted to boycott Israel as has COSATU of South Africa. Unions in Ireland and in Northern Ireland condemned the attacks on the flotilla. Even the International Trade Union Confederation (of which the AFL-CIO is a member) is calling for Israel to end the siege of Gaza, to end the occupation of the West Bank and to remove all settlements. It’s U.S. international union presidents who are out of step.

There are now websites devoted to eradicating the war stain on American labor. The one I run is called Dump Israel Bonds ( There’s also Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign ( which concentrates on getting Minnesota state government to sell off its bonds.

Organizing for October 2

Last month despite Obama’s dismal labor record AFL-CIO heads gave him ovations at a national Executive Committee meeting. In These Times reported that leaders were “elated” when he apologized for not getting card check passed. He echoed FDR’s statement that urged factory workers to join unions. Obama said “ I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.” For this he was “wildly applauded”.

But in this year’s Labor Day address when he was speaking to the nation Obama said none of that. He said nothing about the One Nation march or any union campaign or strike. He didn’t say a sentence about card check or any labor law reform. He didn’t even utter the word “union”. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Instead he gave hosannas to “the great American middle class”. (If workers are now the middle class who is the lower class?) He talked about how his people were thinking up plans so that workers would have “new ways of saving their tax refunds and a simpler system for enrolling in retirement plans like 401(k)s.” He had the bully pulpit on Labor Day but didn’t say one thing of help to unions, working peoples’ engine of collective power.

So what will the tens of thousands be doing in DC on October 2? Is it a protest? Are we protesting the Republicans? Will One Nation demand the government put millions to work directly? Or will the unions and NAACP circle the wagons around Obama, the leader of the Blue Dog Wall Street Democrats?

The rally is against “hate” so will it support the Islamic Center in Manhattan? Will it protest the racism keeping a million Blacks in what Glen Ford calls the “black prison gulag”? If they even have a peace speaker will she or he be allowed to demand Obama pull out from Afghanistan and stop his 200% support of Israel? Or will the peace speech be limited to calling for cuts in the military budget?

Anti-war folks should organize for October 2nd, and go down to DC and leaflet and show off our banners. But we shouldn’t be chumps. We shouldn’t be restricted to some table in the back of the room. We should insist on a seat at the big table, with anti-war demands right in the main agenda. We need to see banners with “Troops Out Now” and “Close Down the Guantanamos” and “Dump Israel Bonds” right up on the stage.

Stanley Heller has been an AFL-CIO member for over 40 years. See He can be reached at stanley.heller (at)

[Press TV Reporters File] Continued Gaza Siege And Its Economic Impact Include BDS Campaign

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing, Why Boycott?! on September 8, 2010 by Marcy Newman
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