UC GRADUATE STUDENT-WORKER UNION BECOMES FIRST MAJOR U.S. LABOR UNION TO SUPPORT BDS

From the UAW 2865 BDS page:

For Immediate Release – December 10th, 2014

HISTORIC: UAW 2865, UC STUDENT-WORKER UNION, BECOMES FIRST MAJOR U.S. LABOR UNION TO SUPPORT DIVESTMENT FROM ISRAEL BY MEMBERSHIP VOTE

IN SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN WORKERS AND STUDENTS.

65% of VOTING MEMBERS APPROVE CALL FOR DIVESTMENT;

52% pledged to support academic boycott

“This is a decisive victory for justice for Palestinians. After months of campaigning, we are inspired that so many members participated in this vote and made their voices heard. This is a testament to our membership’s engagement with matters of social justice. 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.” –Kumars Salehi, member

“We are committed to linking student and labor movements in the United States to student and labor movements in other parts of the world, including Palestine. As student-workers fighting the attacks on education here in California as well as the decades-long crackdown on labor in the U.S. generally, we know that international labor solidarity makes us stronger and we support Palestinian students, workers and broader society in their decades-long struggle against dispossession, occupation and apartheid.” –Loubna Qutami, member

UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65% (almost 2/3) of voting members in support. Over 2100 members voted, a testament to union democracy.

The measure calls on

  1. the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid;
  2. the UAW International to divest from these same entities;
  3. the US government to end military aid to Israel.
  4. 52 % 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 such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.

1136 members pledged to observe the academic boycott, a reflection of the ways student laborers are taking concrete actions to practice solidarity.

In July, the union’s Joint Council, comprised of 83 elected officers across nine UC campuses, published an open letter outlining support for the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) “against public institutions and corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestinians.” This open letter announced it would seek a membership vote on the matter in the coming academic year. The UAW 2865 Joint Council took these steps in response to a call for solidarity from all major Palestinian trade unions, including the Palestinian University Teachers’ Association, The Joint Council’s open letter was followed by four months of internal debate prior to the election and deep engagement by members statewide.

The goal of the non-violent global BDS strategy is that Israel will end land confiscation and human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, recognize rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel as over 50 Israeli laws currently discriminate against them, and respect the right under international law of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

UAW 2865 joins several labor unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, UNITE New Zealand, CUPE in Canada, COSATU in South Africa and many dockworker unions around the world. It also joins growing grassroots voices in the U.S. labor movement including rank and file members of the International Longshore Workers’ Union Local 10 that supported community pickets and successfully blocked Israeli ships from unloading goods similar to their historic involvement in the anti-South African apartheid movement, and hundreds of labor organizers who signed onto the Labor for Palestine statement. Within the UAW itself, Local 2865 follows the precedent of Arab-American auto workers in Detroit in 1973 who protested the union’s purchase of Israeli bonds financing the seizure of Palestinian lands. Just as black workers at Polaroid in the U.S. launched a boycott of their company for helping make apartheid passbooks for South Africans, we support workers in other UAW-unionized industries in pressuring their employers to commit to socially responsible business practices so that the illegal occupation of Palestinians comes to an end.

The mostly graduate student worker union joins the undergraduate student governments of UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UCLA which have passed resolutions in support of divestment.

We are immensely grateful for the tremendous support from numerous individuals and organizations, including letters of support from over 700 supporters from Jewish communities, feminist and queer workers linking the campaign to repression against Palestinian-American feminist activist Rasmea Odeh, among letters from many other groups which were posted on a Facebook page in support of the measure.

For more information, please visit uaw2865.org.

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Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA Hails Divestment Victory, Thanks all Supporters

November 19, 2014

Divestment organizers at UCLA, representing a wide coalition of students from all backgrounds and sectors of campus, celebrated a milestone victory for social justice with the passage of “A Resolution to Divest from Companies Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, sponsored by Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, Conrad Contreras, and Manjot Singh, passed by an 8-2-2 margin. It was sponsored by 15 student organizations and endorsed by an additional 17, making for 32 total student groups in support of divestment. UCLA’s vote marks the 6th of 9 undergraduate University of California campuses to have taken a majority vote in support of divestment from corporations that violate Palestinian human rights.

Council members from a variety of political affiliations voted in favor of the resolution, including independents, progressives, and a member of the campus’ moderate party. Before the vote, council members expressed their admiration and respect for the coalition building, education, and outreach by SJP-UCLA during our campaign. Also notable was the positive tone of the hearing and discussion, wherein most council members affirmed their support for one another regardless of their votes.

The resolution could not have been successful without the support of the students from many communities who came out to speak in its favor and who stayed at the hearing until it passed. Alaa Abuadas, the programming director for SJP-UCLA said, “as a Palestinian, I want to thank every single person who helped us pass this bill, for getting us one step closer to a free Palestine.”

This resolution’s victory does not mark the end of SJP’s efforts. SJP sees the passage of divestment as a chance to help other communities use this tool as an avenue to attain more political agency. On that note, the organization sees this vote as laying a principled foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice.

For more, see: http://www.sjpbruins.com/

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Help support the Right to Education Tour!

Support the Right to Education Campaign’s West Coast tour

We are seeking your financial support for Palestinian students to travel to California as part of the Right to Education Tour. Palestinian students from Birzeit University will be visiting the United States, giving us a rare and important opportunity for Palestinians living under occupation to directly speak to university students in the United States (you can see articles about RTE here). We hope to raise $4,000 to  help fund travel, lodging, and other costs for the students who will be visiting California.




With many thanks,

SJP-West Fundraising Committee

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UC Berkeley rejects bill condemning boycotts of Israeli academic institutions

[caption id="attachment_175009390" align="aligncenter" width="563"]From the Daily Cal, Photo by Arielle Hayat From the Daily Cal, Photo by Arielle Hayat[/caption]

From the Daily Cal: More than 100 students, professors, UC alumni and other community members gathered in Anna Head Alumnae Hall to voice their opinions on Senate Bill 11, titled “A Bill in Support of the Free Flow of Ideas and International Academic Collaboration,” which was sponsored by Student Action Senator Ori Herschmann.

The bill called for the ASUC to endorse “academic freedom” and to support academic exchanges such as those between UC Berkeley and Israeli academic institutions.

In particular, the bill called for the ASUC to reject academic boycotts against Israeli academic institutions, such as those by the American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies. The American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions on the grounds that these institutions are subject to state policies that allegedly violate human rights.

The bill also called for the ASUC to denounce a student-organized event scheduled for next week that, among other points, advocates an academic boycott of Israel. The International Day of Action on College Campuses for Palestine, scheduled for Tuesday, calls for no “academic complicity” with the Israeli government, according to the event’s Facebook page — including no study abroad programs in Israel and no joint research or conferences with Israeli institutions.

Such academic boycotts, the bill asserts, are violations of academic freedom.

When the committee floor opened for public comment, many opponents of the bill brought up the institutional academic roadblocks for Palestinian students under Israeli law.

Viveka Jagadeesan, a campus junior and member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley, opposed the bill, saying its language was problematic. She said it failed to clarify that the academic boycott applies only to Israeli institutions with “discriminatory policies,” not to individual Israeli academics.

Additionally, she said the contents of the bill contradicted its claim to support free speech.

“When I read the bill, I was quite struck that the bill claimed to support the free flow of ideas when one of its calls to action was to condemn a student-organized event on campus,” Jagadeesan said.

Resources:

Kumars Salehi in the Daily Cal: Anti-BDS bill would have stifled free speech on campus

Letter from prominent academics against the bill

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SJP West Voices Concerns about Student Regent-Designate Nominee

Dear members of the UCSA Board,

SJP West is writing to voice serious concerns about the recent developments surrounding the student-regent designate, Avi Oved, and the possibility that he accepted a financial contribution from Adam Milstein during his political campaign in 2013. While Students for Justice in Palestine is an organization with views on Israel/Palestine and divestment that are at odds with those of Oved and his party slate, the issue at hand is not divestment, but the potential violation of transparency and ethicality so integral for a student representative to uphold. The evidence presented to date suggests that a student who will potentially be tasked with representing the entire University of California student body willfully undermined the democratic process by seeking outside funding from an individual with a partisan political agenda. This is profoundly troubling because it sends the message that student political favors are for sale and that the general student body’s needs may be of secondary importance to the desires of such off-campus political donors.

Despite political differences, all students should be able to know that our representatives are only answerable to student concerns and not those of outside entities. Student representatives must be solely accountable to their constituents. It is absolutely essential for these charges to be thoroughly ruled out: how can we hold state and federal leaders to account if we cannot even do the same for our own student leaders? We need to be absolutely certain that the student regent designate’s loyalties lie with UC students first and foremost and not with outside organizations.

Furthermore, we find Milstein’s public displays of racist and Islamophobic sentiment repugnant, and Avi Oved’s potential solicitation of funds from such a donor to be a matter of grave concern. Representing the UC’s diverse student body requires a student regent with a demonstrated commitment to openness and tolerance. Avi Oved’s refusal to distance himself publicly from this exchange suggests an incompatibility with these qualities. Even excluding the substantive content of Mr. Milstein’s beliefs, the possibility that the integrity of student government is being undermined by outside forces to further a particular political agenda is unacceptable and must be investigated thoroughly.

Finally, it is very alarming that Oved refused, for no apparent reason, to join the UCSA’s conference call specifically held for him to answer questions and be accountable to his constituents. In addition to this, his lack of explicit denial of accepting those contributions from Milstein and of the email’s authenticity are also disturbingly telling. Both participation in a conversation about these allegations and an assurance that the contributions did not take place would have been crucial to preserving student trust in their student regent-designate. An investigation is hence paramount to ensure that Oved is the right candidate for this position and that students can trust him to represent them fairly and transparently.

We hope that these allegations will be investigated in as scrupulous a manner as possible. The credibility of our student representation may very well depend on it.

Sincerely,

Students for Justice in Palestine West

Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA

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Editorial: Divestment puts student participation on full display

ucr photo

UC Riverside Highlander Editorial Board:

By now, every student has heard the critiques before. We’re lazy. We’re entitled. We don’t want to take our eyes off our Facebooks or our butts off our couches. Yeah, we know.

UCR students have shattered that misconception…

We have been engaged in the world around us, making our voices heard by engaging in electoral politics and protesting when the political system didn’t listen. Nowhere was this more evident than during ASUCR’s recent meeting that discussed divestment. The senate chambers could not accommodate the turnout, so the meeting was moved to UNLH, UCR’s largest lecture hall. Over 150 students spent five hours during a week filled with studying and midterms to debate the merits of divestment. Students held posters high. Students made their case to their elected representatives. In short, students did exactly what participatory democracy expects of its citizens: We participated.

…Let’s not let the energy surrounding divestment be a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. The momentum of dialogue and conversation cannot cease with divestment. It must continue forward, with students carrying the banner to advocate for the issues they find important. Students can effect real change. We just have to be tenacious and energetic enough to seek it in the first place.

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‘What Side Of History Will You Be On?’: A Closer Look at the Dialogue Surrounding Divestment

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="520"] John Clow, Daily Nexus[/caption]

Katlen Abuata, Daily Nexus

Stokely Carmichael once said of Dr. Martin Luther King, “His major assumption was that if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.” In reality, Israel, the United States, the corporations profiting off this occupation and this Associated Students Senate have no conscience.

We cannot ignore the fact that the United States sends Israel eight million dollars a day in military aid, regardless of countless resolutions condemning Israel’s human rights violations. We cannot forget that Palestine has been colonized and that Palestinians are indigenous to Israel and Palestine, including Jewish, Muslim and Christian Palestinians. We are profiting off of companiesthat demolish homes to make room for settlements. There are over four million registered Palestinian refugees. This movement is bigger than UCSB, and it is reaching a pivotal moment.

We can no longer be invested in violence, and just as truth and justice has prevailed in the past, so will it at the University of California. This wall will fall and the occupied will rise, with or without this Senate’s validation. The question becomes: What side of history will you be on? My name is Katlen Abu Ata, I am a UCSB student, I am Palestinian and I am a true advocate for peace and justice.

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#SDSUdivest: Divestment leads the social justice agenda at San Diego State University

Nadir Bouhmouch, Mondoweiss:

The spring of 2014 semester at San Diego State University was a turning point in student organizing on the campus. The proposal of a divestment bill in January that demanded the university cease its investments in corporations that are complicit in Israeli human rights violations along with a series of other events throughout the semester indicates the galvanization of a new campus left.

The divestment results at San Diego State University’s University Council (16 against, 3 in favor, 3 abstentions) should not come as a surprise. We understood that we were introducing a bill that focused on social justice to a student government that focuses on business, applauding itself as a “corporation.” It is exactly for this reason that we introduced the resolution.

The primary objective of the divestment initiative was to challenge the corporate model of student governance, to educate students on the human rights violations faced by the Palestinian people, and to stimulate the formation of inter-community solidarity amongst students at San Diego State University. In this respect, divestment was a spectacular victory.

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