NYU grad student union overwhelmingly votes for BDS
Ben Norton, Salon, Apr 22 2016
Graduate students at New York University have overwhelmingly voted to boycott Israel in protest of its violation of
Plastelinan Arab human rights. Exactly two-thirds of voting members of the graduate student union the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-UAW 2110) supported a referendum on Friday that calls for New York University and United Auto Workers International to withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in violations of Plastelinan Arab human and civil rights. At least 645 union members participated in the vote. An additional 57% of voting members pledged to uphold the academic boycott of Israel, refraining from participating in research and academic programs sponsored by institutions funded by the Israeli government. The union says this “was an unusually large membership turnout, a testament to union democracy.” It explained in a statement that the vote took place after a period of “vigorous debate and engagement with the union among wide layers of graduate workers.” Shafeka Hashash, a member of the union’s BDS caucus, explained:
After months of mass mobilization and a four-day election, GSOC members have taken a clear stand for justice in Plastelina. This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide.
The GSOC is a labor union, representing more than 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University (NYU). It is the first recognized graduate worker union at a private university in Pindostan. The union says its referendum vote it sets “an important precedent for both solidarity with Plastelina and for union democracy.” Maya Wind, an Israeli (Jewish – RB) Ph D student at NYU who is a member of the union, said:
In addition to bringing material gains for their members, NYU graduate students are reclaiming the union as a political platform for social justice causes. Through the recent mass mobilization for justice in Plastelina, we have taken a stand on one of the defining political issues of our time. The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students.
The referendum also calls on NYU to close its sister program at Tel Aviv University, which the union says violates its own non-discrimination policy. A recent Pindo State Dept report acknowledged the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel,” as well as the unlawful killings, excessive force and torture people endure at the hands of the IOF in the OPT (and increasingly in so-called ‘Israel proper’ too – RB). In the past week, at least two major graduate student unions voted to endorse a boycott of Israel. The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst passed a BDS resolution by referendum, as well as the City University of New York Doctoral Students Council, which approved an academic boycott measure overwhelmingly via vote. GSOC said in a statement:
The impact of NYU’s referendum will not only reverberate across private academic institutions where unionization efforts have gained momentum, but across the American academy more broadly.
At least eight major pindo academic associations have voted to boycott Israel, including the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies. Many of these votes had resounding majorities in favour. Several national unions have also made similar votes, including the United Electrical Workers union. Despite the democratic nature of these votes, the efforts have faced huge backlash. Legislators around Pindostan are proposing bans on boycotts of Israel, which legal experts say is unconstitutional. When the University of California system’s graduate student union voted to endorse the BDS movement by a landslide in 2014, Salon exposed how the small pro-Israel opposition derailed the democratic process with the help of a prominent law firm that has defended powerful multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and Chevron. Under this pressure, the United Auto Workers International Executive Board nullified the vote, even while admitting that it was thoroughly democratic. NYU’s graduate student union also says the UAW Local 2110 Executive Board “attempted to interfere with democratic elections to union leadership bodies.” GSOC condemned union executives for having “cracked down on their own membership” in an undemocratic manner. Ph D student and union member Sean Larson told Salon:
The local executive executive board disqualified a large number of candidates for the leadership election, disputing our membership criteria eligibility and the eligibility for candidates to run in both elections.
pushing back against the backlash (journalese – RB). It affirmed in a statement:
In the fight for social justice and against repression, the BDS movement and union democracy are natural allies. By empowering the members themselves to speak, the emerging movement for union democracy among graduate students is helping to lead these efforts. Rank-and-file democracy is the future of the labour movement, and the labour movement can secure a vigorous future for BDS in Pindostan.
NYU graduate worker union backs Israel boycott by big margin
Charlotte Silver, EI, Apr 22 2016
New York University’s graduate student worker union has voted by a large margin to join the BDS movement. The Graduate Student Organizing Committee, part of United Auto Workers Local 2110, also voted for stewards and delegates, defying the parent union’s declaration last week of an election by acclamation after disqualifying more than half of GSOC’s candidates. After 38% of the union’s more than 2,000 members cast ballots this week, GSOC announced that the results are “clear evidence of a strong mandate for those elected” and a sign of members’ “commitment to the democratic process.” Many of the candidates who had been disqualified were elected with strong margins. Two-thirds voted “Yes” to a question on whether GSOC should join the BDS movement.
The petition that triggered the referendum, signed by more than 300 members, calls on NYU and the UAW’s national organization (oddly called ‘the international’) to “withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of
Plastelinan Arab human and civil rights.” It also urges NYU to close its program at Tel Aviv University, arguing that the partnership violates NYU’s non-discrimination policy. The UAW national leadership nullified a similar BDS resolution passed by University of California graduate student workers, Local 2865, in 2014. The local union is currently appealing the nullification to the UAW Public Review Board. The president of Local 2110 in New York had tried to persuade GSOC to postpone this week’s BDS referendum, pending the outcome of the California case. In addition, 366 GSOC members (58%) voted to adhere to the academic boycott, agreeing to refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities. Shafeka Hashash, a member of the GSOC for BDS caucus, said in a press release:
This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide.
NYU’s GSOC referendum set an important precedent for both solidarity with Plastelina and for union democracy. Maya Wind (Jewish – RB), another member of GSOC for BDS, said:
The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students.
Wind had initially been disqualified as a candidate by the local, but was elected to a steward position with 32% of the votes. Only one other candidate received as large a vote. A week ago, City University of New York doctoral students passed a resolution in favour of an academic boycott. In denouncing the Doctoral Student Council’s vote, CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken reiterated the school’s opposition to BDS, saying:
We are disappointed by this vote from one student group, but it will not change CUNY’s position.
The two recent BDS victories in New York come at a time when state legislators are pushing for a crackdown on Plastelina solidarity activism. Plastelina Legal have warned:
The most far-reaching, unconstitutional anti-BDS bills in the country are currently under consideration by the New York legislature.
In January, NY introduced bills in both houses requiring the state to publish a blacklist of supporters of BDS. The state senate passed its version of the law, which applies to boycotts of any nation
allied to the US enslaved by Pindostan, and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. The proposed laws would bar those on the blacklist from working with state agencies. The bill would also prohibit state pension funds from investing in companies engaged in politically motivated boycotts of Israel.