Univ. of California union approves BDS motion


(JTA) — A union that represents University of California student workers and academic employees approved a resolution to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents more than 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and other student workers in the UC system, announced Wednesday that the measure was approved on Dec. 4 by a vote of  1,411 to 749.

The UAW local became the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote on Israel and BDS.

The union also announced that during the vote, 1,136 members pledged to personally adhere to the academic boycott of Israel.

The measure calls on the University of California and UAW International to “divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid” and calls on the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel.

Some 53 percent of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until the Israeli universities “take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.”

“This vote was a first step in our commitment to solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and facing discriminatory laws, and we will continue to take steps to make that solidarity concrete as part of our involvement in anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles broadly,” union member Kumars Salehi said.

UAW 2865 joins several labor unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, as well as several dockworker unions around the world, in supporting the BDS movement.

The undergraduate student governments of several UC schools, including at Berkeley, San Diego, Riverside, Irvine and Los Angeles, also have passed resolutions in support of divestment from Israel.

Informed Grads, a group of union members that opposes the resolution, said in a statement that it was extremely concerned with the outcome of the vote, which it says puts UAW 2865  in direct opposition to the International UAW, which opposes the BDS movement.

“This is incredibly damaging to our union,” Jonathan Kummerfeld, a UC Berkeley computer science graduate student and Informed Grads member, said in a statement. “This resolution may end up with our union recommending boycotting fellow UAW members who work for companies that are targets of the BDS movement.”

The pro-Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs, which is active on UC campuses, in a statement condemned UAW 2865 for backing the divestment measure. The group accused the union of holding Israel to a “double standard,” in particular by rejecting a proposal to boycott major human rights violators including the governments of Qatar, Russia, and China.

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