Letter: Resolution affirms human rights
To the Editor:
On April 14, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW Local 2322) at the University of Massachusetts adopted a resolution to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The resolution calls on the graduate students’ employer and their union to divest from and boycott companies that fuel and profit from the military occupation and repression of Palestinians. BDS is a global grassroots movement that uses peaceful economic means to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect the human rights of Palestinians. The BDS campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society and by major trade unions within the occupied Palestinian territories.
It is encouraging to us as faculty that GEO, the largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local 2322, and representing over 2,000 graduate student workers at our flagship campus, voted overwhelmingly (95 percent) in favor of the resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society. In doing so it became the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.
The graduate students faced pressure from individuals outside their union, including a small number of faculty, to reject the resolution. As evidenced by the 95 percent vote in favor of the resolution, the graduate students were not intimidated. We commend the graduate students for conducting their campaign for the resolution in a democratic manner, for following the process outlined in their union bylaws, and for engaging the maximum number of members possible.
Before the vote, GEO organized forums open to its membership and the public, to educate members and to debate the resolution. During a period of open dialogue when all members were encouraged to express diverse views, the GEO Black Caucus and Jewish GEO members publicly endorsed the resolution. The resolution states clearly that it does not seek to discourage association with individual Israeli scholars, and reaffirms GEO’s strong commitment to the principles of academic freedom for all in the UMass community. The methods by which this pro-BDS resolution was adopted represent the best practices of union democracy. We congratulate the graduate students on their principled and democratic vote for social justice.
Prof. Louise Antony, Department of Philosophy
Prof. Kiran Asher, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Lecturer, Abigail Boggs, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Prof. Laura Briggs, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Prof. David R. Buchanan, Department of Health Promotion & Policy
Prof. Dan Clawson, Department of Sociology
Prof. Suzanne Daly, Department of English
Prof. Laura A. Doyle, Department of English
Prof. Mwangi wa Gĩthĩnji, Department of Economics
Prof. Peter A. Graham, Department of Philosophy
Prof. Aline C. Gubrium, Department of Health Promotion & Policy
Prof. Ruth Jennison, Department of English
Prof. Sut Jhally, Department of Communication
Prof. Miliann Kang, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Prof. Emeritus Arthur S. Keene, Department of Anthropology
Prof. David Kotz, Department of Economics
Prof. Elizabeth L. Krause, Department of Anthropology
Prof. Agustin Lao-Montes, Department of Sociology
Prof. Joseph Levine, Department of Philosophy
Prof. Asha Nadkarni, Department of English
Prof. Hoang Gia Phan, Department of English
Prof. Jordy Rosenberg, Department of English
Prof. Sigrid Schmalzer, Department of History
Prof. James Smethurst, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
Prof. Mary C. Wilson, Department of History
Prof. Emeritus H. Martin Wobst, Department of Anthropology
Prof. Kevin A. Young, Department of History