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Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Statement

And a solidarity response from U.S. Labor

This statement by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions appeared originally on October 16. We republish it here with the response from U.S. trade unionists in solidarity with Palestine.

Brothers and Sisters of trade workers’ unions in the United States of America,

From the midst of the rubble and at the center of the ethnic cleansing war committed by the apartheid regime of Israel against our people in the Gaza Strip, we send you this urgent appeal to bring you closer to the image of the massacres and the full-fledged war crimes against more than 2 million citizens in Gaza, including over seventy percent who are unemployed and live below the poverty line, enduring extremely difficult conditions.

Israeli aggression has exacerbated the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, and even demolished homes on their heads, depriving them for the tenth day in a row of electricity, water, fuel, medicine, and necessary medical supplies. As of the current date, the number of martyrs killed by Israel has exceeded 2,800, including unarmed, unemployed, working-class, and refugee civilians.

Additionally, over 10,000 have been injured, and approximately one thousand citizens are trapped under the rubble. The number of killed children exceeds 500, along with 400 women.

The apartheid regime of Israel is not satisfied with these heinous atrocities; it is also targeting journalists, medical teams, ambulances, and firefighters, leading to the complete destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. And Israel has escalated its crimes by targeting institutions and trade union offices, reducing them to ruins.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with deep sincerity and appreciation for the leadership role of unions and your constant support of our rights, we will never forget the previous vicious attacks in 2014 and 2021, when you made your voices loud and clear and when your heroic port workers blocked the boats (the Israeli-owned ZIM cargo ships). Now the aggressive, vicious attacks are continuing on a much larger scale, so we urge you to stand with us, again, and rise to the level of the war being waged against us all!

We ask your support for the following:

First, to exert pressure on the U.S. administration, and the international community as a whole, to immediately halt the apartheid regime of Israel’s aggression against defenseless civilians in Gaza and condemn the collective punishment that has been imposed on us for more than 15 years.

Second, to end the siege that has been imposed on Gaza and pressure Israel to recognize our legitimate rights preserved by international law. Israel is the main cause of instability in the region.

Third, to contribute to providing urgent medical and humanitarian aid to support our people in these tragic times as quickly as possible. We trust in your ability to take urgent action to apply pressure and offer assistance, believing in the justice of our cause and our legitimate rights.

In struggle for a better world –a world of peace and justice. As there can be no peace without justice.

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

Signed by

Basher Al-Sisi,

Member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

U.S. Trade unionists’ reply

Dear comrade Basher Al-Sisi and members of the PGFTU leadership,

We, trade union activists from across the United States, received your very powerful and moving letter addressed to the U.S. labor movement. We will distribute your letter — with its Call to Action – far and wide in the U.S. labor movement.

We thank you for your message, which has motivated us to redouble our efforts urging the labor movement to join the growing movement in the streets of our country to demand (1) an end to the bombing of Gaza and a halt to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, (2) an end to the siege of Gaza, and (3) massive (not token) medical and humanitarian assistance for a people who have been driven, in this second Nakba, from their homes.

As you may know, there has been an outpouring of support for the Palestinian people throughout the United States. Mass demonstrations, with thousands of people chanting “Free Palestine!”, are a daily occurrence. Hundreds were arrested for blocking the 11 entrances to the White House in Washington, DC. Sit-ins are taking place on college campuses. Jewish activists have joined the protests with banners that read, “Not In Our Name!” A growing number of political leaders have denounced the ethnic cleansing and are urging a ceasefire.

Hundreds of union organizers have also come together to support the embattled Palestinian people. On October 16, 266 union activists from all corners of the United States, including a number of union presidents, joined a zoom conference call in response to the invitation from Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union (AFL-CIO). Your PGFTU letter was distributed to call participants.

On October 19, more than 400 unionists participated in a video conference convened by U.S. Labor Against War and Racism. Both video conferences were aimed at building ever-greater support in the U.S. labor movement for the people of Palestine.

National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter put it best when he stated the following in his letter of invitation to the October 16 meeting:

History did not start on Saturday [October 7]. Gaza is little more than a massive outdoor prison for its citizens. …

No doubt, Randi Weingarten and Stuart Applebaum are speaking for most AFL-CIO affiliated unions [when they support Israel], but not for all. Let’s do what we can to oppose the current slaughter of Palestinians that is now underway. The answer in Israel/Palestine, and everywhere, must start with international solidarity, anti-racism, and building the unity of Jews and Palestinians, which has been done before, yet today seems unimaginable.

The world is watching as events unfold in Gaza.

We, who sign this reply to your letter, pledge to do all we can to stop the slaughter of the Palestinian people and enable them to determine their own destiny, free from foreign intervention and oppression.

Many U.S. trade unions have a proud tradition of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The longshore members of the ILWU, for example, in 2014 and 2021 blocked the Israeli Zim ship from unloading cargo in the Port of Oakland, affecting commerce and the pocketbooks of the corporate elite. We will approach as many unions as we can to urge their support for your struggle.

We salute your courage in the face of an onslaught that you have had to endure for 75 years, and even before that. We will keep in touch as much as possible to make sure that you, your family members, and co-workers are safe.

Initial list of signatories; all unions and titles are for identification purposes only.

Gene Bruskin, Co-founder, US Labor Against the War, Member, National Writers Union, Washington, DC
Clarence Thomas, Past secretary treasurer, ILWU Local 10 retired, Oakland, CA
Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary Treasurer Emeritus, OPEIU, Washington, DC
Monadel Herzallah,Arab American Union Members Council (AAUMC), North Bay, CA
Gloria La Riva, First Vice President, Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521, CWA, San Francisco, CA
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator Emeritus, US Labor Against the War, Berkeley, CA
Alan Benjamin, Past OPEIU 29 Delegate to SF Labor Council, Past SFLC Exec. Bd. Member, (now living in New York, NY)
David Van Deusen, Former President, Vermont AFL-CIO
Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA), National Writers Union (NWU), Charleston, South Carolina
David Newby, Member, AFT Local 3220, Madison, WI
John Braxton, Co-President Emeritus, AFT Local 2026, Philadelphia, PA
Tom Gogan, National Organizer Emeritus USLAW, member, National Writers Union, New York, NY
Bill Leumer, Former president, IAM Local 565 (title for id. only), San Francisco, CA
Sandy Eaton, RN, Chair Emeritus, Legislative Council, National Nurses United
Kathy Black, Philly CLUW Exec Board member, AFSCME DC47 retiree, Philadelphia, PA
Millie Phillips, member, CWA 9415, Oakland, CA
David Walters, IBEW Local 1245, Ret., Pacifica, CA
Don Bryant, National Association of Letter Carriers (retired), NALC-Branch 40 (for id. only), Cleveland, OH
Kathy Lipscomb, SEIU, retired, San Francisco, CA
Tom Lacey, Member, OPEIU, Local 29, Retired, San Francisco, CA
T. Weber, Peace and Freedom Party of California Legislative Liaison; delegate to Sacramento Central Labor Council


Labor Organizations that have adopted resolutions and/or statements in support of Palestinians:

Alphabet Workers Union
IBT Local 17 and 804
Industrial Workers of the World (Mid-Valley Branch)
Labor Express Radio
NJ State Industrial Union Council
National Writers Union (NWU)
Pacific Media Workers Guild (CWA Local 39521)
PNWSU 3000
Pride at Work/Eastern Massachusetts
Restaurant Workers United
Roofers Local
San Antonio Alliance of Teachers & Support Personnel NEA/AFT Local 67
So. Poverty Law Center Union
Starbuck Workers United
UFCW Local 3000
Unite Here Local 17 and 23
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

Featured image credit: delayed gratification via Flikr; modified by Tempest.

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