UAW Endorses Cease-Fire, the Largest U.S. Union to Call for an Immediate End to the Violence

The announcement at a news conference where protesters have been on a hunger strike outside of the White House marks a major development for labor and the larger call for a cease-fire.

Mindy Isser

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) joined activists, state legislators, and others in support of their hunger strike outside of the White House on November 29, 2023. Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Image

The United Auto Workers have endorsed a cease-fire, making them the largest national union to do so in a major development for labor and the larger movement for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.

Brandon Mancilla, Director of United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9A, which represents 50,000 active and retired workers within the larger UAW, announced the union’s call for a cease-fire publicly on Friday at a news conference outside of the White House where organizers and activists have been on a hunger strike.

The UAW International has joined the call for a cease-fire. [We are] calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire, and [we are] building a global community of solidarity.”

We opposed fascism in World War II, we opposed the Vietnam war, we opposed apartheid South Africa and we mobilized union resources in that fight,” Mancilla says. The UAW International has joined the call for a cease-fire. [We are] calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire, and [we are] building a global community of solidarity.” The UAW now joins other national unions including the American Postal Workers Union, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), and a long list of local unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), in the call for a cease-fire.

The UAW is just coming off their historic Stand-Up Strike against Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which garnered national attention for several weeks as the union was seen as helping lead the way in the overall struggle for dignity and justice for working people across the United States. Since the strike ended and the UAW’s membership voted to accept agreements with Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors, the union has continued to move with bold action. One thing they did was suggest that unions align their contracts to expire in 2028, a move that, if realized, could provide an unprecedented level of bargaining power. They also recently announced a new campaign to organize 150,000 new members at non-union shops.

UAW President Shawn Fain also tweeted on Friday that he was proud that the UAW International Union is calling for a cease-fire in Israel and Palestine. From opposing fascism in WWII to mobilizing against apartheid South Africa and the CONTRA war, the @UAW has consistently stood for justice across the globe.”

“We opposed fascism in World War II, we opposed the Vietnam war, we opposed apartheid South Africa and we mobilized union resources in that fight,” Mancilla says.

Mancilla was at a news conference where labor leaders and union members from across the country had journeyed to Washington D.C. to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a broad, multiracial coalition of politicians, organizers and activists who have been on a five-day hunger strike outside of the White House to demand a permanent cease-fire.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein, who is also a vice president of the AFL-CIO, has spoken publicly about being the only member of the AFL-CIO executive committee to push for the federation to call for a cease-fire. At today’s press conference, Dimondstein says: As working people we stand with the oppressed and the innocent, thousands of whom have lost their lives over the last two months. We unite with unions and people of goodwill around the world in calls for justice and peace.”

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Friday’s gathering of unionists and show of solidarity with those who have been on the five-day hunger strike may not at first appear extraordinary, but it is the latest — and perhaps the loudest — example yet of a profound shift in the relationship between the labor movement and the movements for a cease-fire and Palestinian rights. That shift was made all the more significant by the major announcement from Mancilla and the UAW.

What appears to be happening is that some labor leaders and groups are signaling that they are no longer satisfied with issuing statements and resolutions, and are now increasingly working to align themselves with active social justice movements working to end the violence.

Mancilla says that there is a shift happening.”

President of the American Postal Workers Union Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which has also called for a cease-fire, speaking at House Committee on Oversight and Reform in 2021. Photo by Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

I think a long-needed conversation is happening within the labor movement, and our ignorance and silence around Palestine and Israel is finally ending,” Mancilla says. He was joined at the press conference by Bob Kingsley, the former organizing director of the UE; Elise Bryant, the President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women; Virginia Rodino of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; Busra Aydin of the Washington Teachers’ Union, among others.

Some other examples of this increasing shift includes the CTU, whose vice president, Jackson Potter, appeared as a featured speaker last month at a massive nonviolent action in Chicago organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), IfNotNow and Never Again Action that shut down the Ogilvie Transportation Center and the Israeli consulate to demand an immediate cease-fire. Potter was joined by former CTU President Jesse Sharkey and long-time CTU activist and social justice organizer Bea Lumpkin.

In a major development, the United Auto Workers, who were recently on a historic strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers, publicly announced support for a cease-fire. This photograph was taken on October 10, 2023, in Chicago as workers were picketing outside of a Ford assembly plant. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

At the November demonstration, Potter said, As educators, we cannot remain silent at this moment, with so much carnage, death and destruction.”

“I am so thankful to be here with this coalition of labor, which for so long has been the conscience of this country,” Zohran Mamdani says. “The working person's struggle in this country is the working person's struggle in Palestine.”

Alex Press, a staff writer at Jacobin who covers labor closely, affirmed how important the UAW’s announcement is and what that, the press conference, and other movements among unions and unionists signal about the overall shift happening in labor.

There has always been rank-and-file opposition to war and U.S. imperialism, but the sentiment is now becoming overwhelming. That’s evidenced by the UAW’s announcement … that it has not only signed onto the call for a cease-fire, but will also be forming a Divestment and Just Transition working group to study the history of Israel and Palestine, the union’s economic ties to the conflict, and how they can have a just transition for U.S. workers from war to peace,” Press says. 

That is not just a statement, but a commitment to act, from a union where that is no simple matter. After all, some of their members produce the weapons that Israel uses to massacre civilians. And those who know UAW history know just how significant a shift that is: the UAW not only largely ignored its Arab Workers Caucus in 1973 when they pushed for the union to divest itself from Israeli bonds; in more recent years, it has also intervened to prevent locals from endorsing the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The new reform leadership, sworn in this year, is once again proving itself responsive to the rank-and-file,” she says.

Such a sea change in the UAW, alongside the long and quickly growing list of other unions that have endorsed the calls for a permanent cease-fire, seems like clear evidence that the rank-and-file in the U.S. labor movement have taken the meaning of solidarity to heart and know that they cannot in good conscience sit out this conflict when their Palestinian counterparts have urged them to act.”

A sign supporting unions is near UAW members who were on strike in Chicago. Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

The press conference came on the final day of the five-day hunger strike outside the White House, which has been led by various state politicians including New York state assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and Oklahoma state representative Mauree Turner, as well as a coalition of organizers from social justice organizations like Sumaya Awad, the director of strategy and communications at the Adalah Justice Project and co-editor of Palestine: A Socialist Introduction (Haymarket), along with members of JVP, Dream Defenders, Democratic Socialists of America, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and IfNotNow, among others.

I am so thankful to be here with this coalition of labor, which for so long has been the conscience of this country,” Mamdani says. The working person’s struggle in this country is the working person’s struggle in Palestine.”

Throughout the week, the hunger strikers have been joined and supported by other prominent voices like U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), as well as actress and former New York City gubenatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

Nixon, a 45-year member of SAG-AFTRA, also spoke at the press conference on Friday and says that Unions are about solidarity. Unions are about groups of people with less power and less rights coming together to challenge a more powerful, wealthier, more connected entity; about the little guy standing up to the big guy, and demanding justice, fairness, and humane treatment. And that is certainly what we are seeing the Palestinian people do as they implore the bombing to stop.”

“Ultimately, organized labor has the power not only to build a better society here in the U.S., but a more just foreign policy, as well," says Sumaya Awad.

One of the main goals is to help push President Joe Biden to call for an end to the violence, which has seen by some estimates more than 20,000 Palestinians killed, some 6,000 of them children, along with 1,200 Israelis who were killed by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Ultimately, organized labor has the power not only to build a better society here in the U.S., but a more just foreign policy, as well,” says Awad.

Unions know better than anyone what solidarity means. That’s why they’re increasingly refusing to stay silent in the face of this horrendous genocide our government is backing in Gaza.”

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Mindy Isser works in the labor movement and lives in Philadelphia.
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