U.C. student workers union looks to divest from Israel holdings

The leadership of the U.C. Student-Workers Union issued an open letter this week outlining its intent to support the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement “against public institutions and corporations that profit from [Israeli] occupation and apartheid.”

The Joint Council of the UAW 2865 — a body of 83 elected officers that oversees some 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and others student workers in the University of California system — wrote that it “will seek a full membership vote within the upcoming academic year in support of BDS,” but did not elaborate on when that vote would occur.

In contrast to U.C. student government resolutions supporting BDS, which have no financial impact as the U.C. system routinely dismisses them, a BDS resolution passed by UAW 2865 would seek to remove pension fund investments from “companies that profit off of the Israeli occupation,” the letter noted.

Jonathan Kummerfeld, a U.C. Berkeley computer science graduate student and summer instructor, expressed concern that the proposal will pass, even though he thinks most UAW members “are probably in support of a two-state solution.”

“One of the core goals of the BDS movement is the right of return for all Palestinians, which is not compatible with a two-state solution,” he wrote in an email to J. “Based on the announcement made, it seems unlikely that the UAW leadership is going to adequately inform the members of the issues with the BDS movement, and so I think it is very possible that the proposal will pass.”

The UAW leadership group will hold educational forums about divesting its union pensions, the letter noted. “We [also] call upon our members to honor the academic and cultural boycott of Israel and will offer information about the specifics of the campaign soon.”

The letter began with the title “Student Workers at the University of California Support Palestine.” It went on to cite statements from Palestinian trade unions, statistics from the current Israel-Gaza fighting and the history of Israel’s “siege” on Gaza.

Kummerfeld wrote that he was “very concerned about the language of the announcement itself, which presents a very skewed perspective of the history of the conflict.”

Toward its conclusion, the letter, which can be seen in full at www.tinyurl.com/uaw-bds, read: “We want to make it clear that this resolution targets a colonial-apartheid state, not Jewish people.” — j. staff