National Labor Relations Board rejects Shurat HaDin complaint against United Electrical Workers

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Last August, as we reported, the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), representing 30,000 workers across the country, adopted a historic resolution (here) supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement at their 74th National Convention in Baltimore, becoming the first national trade union in the U.S. to endorse BDS.

The resolution, condemned by ADL and described as a “shocker” by pro Israel forces, called on congress and the executive branch “to end all U.S. military aid to Israel; and to pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate 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.”

On October 13, Shurat HaDin, the Israeli lawfare bullies that act as a proxy for the Israeli government, filed a complaint against UE with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), accusing the union of violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by claiming the act’s boycott prohibitions applied to Israel. Last week the NLRB disagreed and dismissed Shurat HaDin’s complaint.

UE explains in UE Win at NLRB: Harassing Political Charge by Israeli Law Firm Dismissed:

[T]the Israeli law firm Shurat Hadin filed a charge with the NLRB alleging that UE’s resolution violated the prohibition in U.S. labor law against “secondary boycotts.” The union disputed the charge, arguing that ’s action was an attempt to interfere with the First Amendment rights of the union and its members to express opinions on political and international issues, and also that the Israeli firm’s allegation were factually untrue.

UE National President Peter Knowlton says the union “welcomes the labor board’s decision” to dismiss Shurat Hadin’s charge. He said that UE in the past had “withstood attempts by the U.S. government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.” Knowlton added, “The NLRB’s decision is a victory for the growing BDS movement across the U.S., which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government.  As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.”

Shurat Hadin is an Israeli organization that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights and critics of Israel, a strategy known as lawfare. Its most infamous case was a 2011 lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter for writing a book critical of Israel,Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The suit against Carter failed, as did a suit aimed at censoring Al Jazeera’s reporting. Its attacks on UE began Sept. 2, 2015 when Shurat Hadin wrote a letter to the CEO of the General Electric Company, UE’s largest employer, “warning” GE to “rescind its recently concluded labor agreement” with UE because Shurat Hadin didn’t like the union’s resolution on Israel and Palestine.

The global BDS movement arose from a 2005 call by Palestinian trade unions and human rights groups. UE’s resolution also calls for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel and for U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. With its resolution UE joined the South African labor union confederation COSATU, Unite the Union in Britain and many other labor unions around the world in supporting BDS as a step toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.

UE is an independent, member-run union representing 30,000 workers across the country in the private and public sectors. At its five-day convention last August member delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues.  UE’s 2015 convention resolution, “Justice and Peace for the Peoples of Palestine and Israel”, upholds the union’s long tradition of courageous stands on foreign policy issues, which includes being the first union to oppose the Vietnam War, and its calls since the 1980s for a just and equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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7 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    January 21, 2016, 7:31 pm

    Did Shurat Ha’Din have “standing” to bring the complaint? What was their gripe that gave them a platform to stand up on in “court”? Apparently they did. However, the union prevailed for the following reason: The NLRB concluded

    that the Union did not violate Section 8(b)(4)(i)(B) because its resolution would not reasonably be understood by employees as a signal or request to engage in a work stoppage against their own employer.

    So, a strike or the threat of a strike as “enforcement” of a BDS boycott might violate the law (in this case) but not the mere adoption of a pro-BDS stance.

  2. Atlantaiconoclast
    January 22, 2016, 10:57 am

    Unelected courts have way too much power. People should not have to rely on court rulings to practice their right to purchase, boycott, or take part in any other voluntary transaction.

    • Mooser
      January 22, 2016, 12:06 pm

      “People should not have to rely on court rulings to practice their right to purchase, boycott, or take part in any other voluntary transaction.”

      “Atlantaiconoclast” is a union man now, all the way!

    • Boo
      January 22, 2016, 12:23 pm

      I certainly appreciate your sentiment, yet there are two sides to that issue. A number of State legislatures are entertaining bills that would criminalize #BDS-type actions against Israel. (The nearly identical verbiage of these bills makes it clear that they were pre-authored by the Israel Lobby.)

      Some of these bills — fortunately, not all — will likely be enacted into law. Once that happens, it’s our judicial branch that has the requisite balance of power to overturn them, and the (presumed) impartiality to render an impartial judgment. Sometimes that’s a fragile fulcrum on which to hang our system of justice, but it’s the best we’ve been able to devise.

      Elected judges are far more prone to pressure from “constituents”, which is why our system of government has historically shunned that method. To boot, an electorate that sweeps one party into power by a large majority would almost certainly at the same time elect judges with similar beliefs. Both of these factors would tend to undermine their impartiality. On balance, I prefer the present system even though I dissent from a goodly number of the rulings it produces.

      • Mooser
        January 22, 2016, 3:40 pm

        “On balance, I prefer the present system…”

        Yes, but some people still feel that “People should not have to rely on court rulings to practice their right to purchase, boycott, or take part in any other voluntary transaction” concerning, you know, accommodations, education, employment, real estate and business generally.

  3. Sycamores
    January 23, 2016, 11:17 am

    following Shurat HaDin in other news this month. Shurat HaDin admitted to faking two hate pages on Facebook, one pro-Palestinian and the other pro-Israeli. they claim it was an experiment to demonstrate that Facebook is biased against Israel.
    Shurat HaDin claims that after posting the two pages they reported it to facebook and only the pro-Israeli one was immediately removed. the other page was removed a few days later.
    so far Facebook has made no comment on the issue.
    link to electronicintifada.net

    Dr. Gilad Ravid, a lecturer of Ben Guiron University, was “not convinced that the conclusions drawn from this experiment are the correct ones.”

    in relation to why one page was immediately removed and not other.

    He added that, while similar, the content posted on the different pages were not identical and that the decision could have been technical, with reference to the use of specific words.

    link to jpost.com

    it would seem that Shurat HaDin carefully worded one of the pages to get the results they wanted.

  4. pabelmont
    January 24, 2016, 9:54 am

    This article is re-printed on a lovely leftie website, PORTSIDE:
    link to portside.org

    Congratulations to Annie!

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