UAW Nullifies California Grad Students' BDS Vote

December 18, 2015

An academic boycott of Israel has divided the graduate student union for the University of California System since last year, when members voted to join the movement over the objections of many of their cohorts. But earlier this week, United Auto Workers International, with which the graduate student union is affiliated, granted an appeal filed by a group of antiboycott union members called Informed Grads. The decision effectively strikes down the union’s earlier, controversial resolution in support of the boycott, on the grounds that it inevitably implicates the international union, hurts members and violates elements of the UAW constitution (though the international union rejected related claims that the election was not fair). The decision was largely unsurprising, since the regional UAW last year reaffirmed the union's formal 2007 opposition to sanctions against Israel.

“All workers represented by UAW can now rest assured that their union will not support [boycott, divestment and sanctions] tactics or endorse an extreme political agenda that is discriminatory, alienating and stifles academic freedom,” said Karra Greenberg, a member of Informed Grads who testified at the appeal hearing, and a sociology student at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The anti-Semitism and active promotion of hate that ran rampant throughout this BDS campaign cannot and must not be tolerated. We applaud [the union] for taking a firm position against BDS and discrimination based on religion or national origin.”

David McCleary, a Ph.D. candidate in molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley and a regional vice president for the grad student union, said via email, “We are glad that the international [union] vigorously defended the fair and democratic nature of our vote, making clear that the landslide results were a manifestation of the will of our membership. The international [union] recognized the education and outreach efforts directed at members on both sides of this political debate, and recognized that this resulted in a higher-than-usual voter turnout.”

He continued, “We are deeply saddened that a small group of International Executive Board members chose to ignore the 65 percent of our voting members who endorsed divestment. While this decision nullifies our nonbinding resolution, it does not erase the voices and efforts of the countless rank-and-file members of our union passionate about equality and justice for Palestinians." He added, "We firmly reject accusations of anti-Semitism, and the evidence presented during the appeal process clearly supports this view. As one of many Jewish members of [United Autoworkers 2865] who supported this divestment campaign, I can say that the accusation is personally hurtful and I expected better of our International Executive Board."

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