The following press release was sent out by the UW-Madison Union of Graduate Student Workers:
Members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin-Madison vote overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to divest from the State of Israel and corporations that profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine.
During a two-week vote distributed to all union members, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, voted overwhelmingly (81% of voting members) in favor of adopting a resolution to divest from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights.
In doing so, the TAA joins other graduate student unions UAW 2322 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, UAW 2865 at the University of California System, and UAW 2110 at New York University, who have stood in solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a non-violent tactic to put political and economic pressure on Israel until it ends the occupation and its violation of human rights and international law. The resolution also calls on the TAA’s employer, the University of Wisconsin System, and parent international, the AFL-CIO, to divest from the state of Israel and companies that contribute to and profit from the military occupation and oppression of Palestinians.
The TAA Palestine Solidarity Caucus (TAA-PSC) began an open process in September 2015, holding roundtables, discussions, and encouraging a platform where all opinions about Israel/Palestine were welcomed. Through countless conversations with fellow union members over the course of this year, TAA-PSC discovered the following realities:
- Palestinian labor and trade unions have sought solidarity from graduate worker unions for ten years
- The AFL-CIO is complicit in financing the occupation of Palestine in holding approximately $5 billion in Israeli Government Bonds
- The U.S., by sending over $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel, is complicit in financing the occupation and oppression of Palestinians;
- The day-to-day working conditions and the realities of the students graduate assistants teach, study, and work with are directly related to the rise of spending on militarism and the consequential disinvestment from public universities and the public sector as a whole.
From these realities emerged the responsibility to join global movements against racism, colonialism, and other systems of exploitation, and to democratically ask union members to join the BDS movement to put pressure on Israel to end the military occupation of Palestine.
At a time when Israel is limiting free speech and the principles of democracy by policing and limiting the movement of BDS supporters within the West Bank and Israel and criminalizing advocacy for BDS, U.S. states are introducing resolutions that make engaging in the non-violent strategy of BDS illegal, and parent unions are voiding democratic votes that called for BDS, the TAA still strongly believes in the difficult practice of democracy. It is only by valuing and creating platforms for all ideas and opinions that the labor movement will be strong.
The TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States and advocates for a university that is fair to all—including students, workers, and their families. Graduate student workers perform nearly half of all the instruction that takes place at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, while also taking classes and conducting research. The University works because we do.