“In no other country is it more true that we, the workers, have a direct say in the plight of Palestinians,” declared Janvi Madhani of UE Local 197-Teachers and Researchers United at a press conference yesterday in the nation’s capital. “Our hard-earned tax dollars go directly towards the bombs being dropped in Gaza but not towards healthcare, housing, or education at home.”
Madhani was representing UE at a press conference, Unions for Ceasefire Now, organized by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO).
“Since October 7, Israel’s escalation of violence in Gaza has killed more than 18,000 Palestinians,” she noted. “The Israeli campaign of terror has expelled more than 1.9 million Palestinians from their homes — more than 80 percent of the population. Israel does this all with impunity and with the United States’ explicit support.
“Time and time again, our government has initiated wars and destabilization campaigns around the world. To what end? The two major US wars of the past two decades, Iraq and Afghanistan, cost us billions of dollars while producing more extremism, more war, more instability, and more danger.”
UAW President Shawn Fain, who also spoke at the press conference, said, “as a labor movement, it’s up to us to stand up and fight for the best of what humanity is and can be. The UAW is proud to stand here with our fellow union family … to call for peace and to call for a ceasefire.”
Fain thanked rank-and-file UAW members for “speaking out and pushing us to come out in support of a ceasefire. It was the right thing to do. … And I call on the rest of the labor movement to join us in this mission for peace and social justice for all of humanity.”
Since UE and UFCW Local 3000 initiated a labor call for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine in October, the UAW, American Postal Workers Union, National Nurses United and National Education Association, along with many regional and local unions, have all called for a ceasefire.
Madhani concluded her remarks by calling on President Biden to “immediately call for a ceasefire, halt unconditional aid to Israel, and immediately restore the basic rights of Palestinians who have been deprived of food, water, fuel, and life-saving medical aid so that the real work of justice for Palestinians can begin.”
Left to right: Wisam Awadallah (Local 197), Sandy Peeples (Local 197), UAW President Shawn Fain, Chelsea Bland (CLUW), Brandon Mancilla (UAW Region 9A), Janvi Madhani (Local 197), Rachel Williams (Local 197).
Madhani was joined by several other members of Local 197 who traveled to Washington with her. Other speakers at the press conference were UAW Region 9A Director Brandon Mancilla, Judy Beard of the American Postal Workers Union, Chelsea Bland of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Gene Bruskin, the national coordinator of National Labor Network for a Ceasefire, Reresentative Bush, and Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)..
Political Action in Pittsburgh
On Monday, December 4, rank-and-file members of UE Locals 667 and 696 visited the offices of Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) and participated in a Zoom meeting with staff from the office of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), demanding that the two senators support a ceasefire.
“War is a detriment to labor,” Local 667 President Fritz Geist told the senators’ staff, “as this project funnels resources, both monetary and human, into actions that result in the further alienation of human beings on both ends of the conflict. Currently, resources that could go into healthcare, education, housing, and infrastructure are instead funding the eradication of an entire nation of human beings overseas.”
Left to right: Jason Lovell, Local 667, retired UE NEWS editor and Local 506 member Al Hart, UE Secretary-Treasurer Andrew Dinkelaker, Fritz Geist, Local 667, Eastern Region President George Waksmunski, Crystal Grabowski, Local 696 (seated), John Trapp, Local 667, and Field Organizer Ben Wilson.
Crystal Grabowski, Local 696, reminded Fetterman’s staff that their local union “put out a statement calling for a permanent ceasefire and the protection of health care workers and their patients in Gaza … after the International Planned Parenthood Federation clinic in Gaza was destroyed.” They blasted the office for simply ignoring their local’s demand, saying that “If Fetterman truly stands with unionized workers, then he doesn’t just get to ignore our demands while workers performing the same work that we do are slaughtered by Israel’s occupying forces in Gaza.”
Local 667 member Jason Lovell also expressed frustration with Fetterman’s “antagonism to people who disagree” with him, accusing the Senator of being “disrespectful” to his constituents.
“We cannot bomb our way to peace”
Retired UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley.
The previous Friday, December 1, members of Local 197 had traveled from Baltimore to Washington, DC to join a labor press conference where retired UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley spoke. “We cannot bomb our way to peace,” declared Kingsley. “In Gaza today, bombs paid for with our tax dollars are falling on the heads of ordinary workers just like the members of my union. On their families, too. It’s time to stop this, time to leverage the billions in U.S. aid we send to Israel to stop this rain of death and destruction on innocent civilians.”
Retired UE General President Peter Knowlton also spoke at a peace rally in Dartmouth, MA on December 10, where he likened “the intimidation and job discrimination faced by people today for supporting Palestinian rights” to the repression that UE faced during the McCarthy era.
- Video of the press conference can be viewed on Facebook or Twitter (Madhani speaks at about 30:00).
- Video of retired UE President Knowlton’s remarks can be viewed on Instagram.
- The UE policy resolution “For Jobs, Peace and a Pro-Worker Foreign Policy,” which “Demands the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel” and supports “a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees,” can be found here.