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October 13, 2015
The Tel Aviv-based legal group Shurat HaDin – The Israel Law Center filed a complaint with the United States National Labor Relations Board over a resolution adopted by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) encouraging members to “endorse” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel.
The “charge,” signed by Shurat HaDin attorneys David Abrams of New York and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv, claims that the UE’s decision to adopt an Israel boycott goes against Board guidelines, which prohibit workers from taking part in boycotts at the workplace — also called “secondary boycotts.”
Shurat HaDin said it sought an injunction against the UE’s adoption of BDS measures, because it amounts to on-the-clock discrimination against Israelis and Israeli firms.
At its 74th convention in August, the UE adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel; to pressure Israel to end its presence in disputed West Bank territories; to end the military blockade of the Gaza Strip; and to allow the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. The resolution also endorsed the BDS movement and encouraged the union “at all levels to become engaged in BDS,” which is apparently the crux of Shurat HaDin’s charge.
From Shurat HaDin’s statement:
The Charge accuses UE of encouraging workers to boycott Israeli enterprises and institutions during the course of their work, similar to the BDS Movement’s public encouragement of dock workers to refuse to unload ships arriving from Israel and academics to refrain from participating in joint projects with Israeli institutions…
According to Shurat HaDin, when these calls are made by a labor union, such as UE, they violate the secondary boycott rule of the NLRA, which the U.S. Supreme Court has said in International Longshoremen’s Association v. Allied International, Inc., 456 U.S. 212 (1982) applies with equal force to politically motivated boycotts.
Ironically, notes Shurat HaDin, the UE, a national labor union representing some 35,000 workers across the United States in a variety of industries, promotes itself as a labor organization that protects the rights of all workers “regardless of craft, age, sex, nationality, race, creed or political beliefs,” language that appears in the Union’s constitution.
UE became the first national labor union to adopt BDS measures back in August, though other U.S. organizations, such as the academic American Studies Association, have also adopted divestment measures against Israel, and the issue has been raised at several college campuses and some businesses across the U.S.
Shurat HaDin also sent a letter to General Electric, admonishing the company to avoid “labor accords” with the UE in light of its adoption of BDS, and warning that the group would take “all steps permitted by law” against GE to ensure it “is not engaged in instituting, promoting or inciting boycotts of the state of Israel, Israeli manufacturers, companies or their products or services.”