On a campus wracked with anti-Israel activism and antisemitic invective, the connection to an anti-Israel national union raises concerns of a renewed BDS effort: “anti-Israel activists should not be permitted to get in through the union back door what they have been unable to get in through the front door.”
The Cornell Graduate Students United recently voted to join a national union, The Cornell Sun reports:
Cornell graduate students have won their unionization election by a vote of 1,873 to 80, and will federate as Cornell Graduate Students United — an organization fighting for the rights of graduate workers — under the national United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union. 128 ballots were challenged, but not counted because they would not have determined the outcome of the election.
Voting occurred on the Ithaca campus between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8, as well as on Nov. 6 at the Geneva campus and at New York City’s Cornell Tech campus. Of the 3,175 eligible voters, 1,953 voted in the election….
Cornell was found to have violated federal labor laws in 2018, resulting from an email from former Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth 24 hours before the March 2017 unionization election began. The email could have been seen as a threat to students voting for unionization, according to the arbitrator’s award document.
I haven’t followed the unionization drive at all, since the types of grad students involved are not part of the law school. I wasn’t even aware an election was ongoing until the Cornell Sun article.
But when I saw the involvement of the United Electrical union, I remembered that UE had endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel:
At its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20 , the United Electrical Workers union (UE) adopted a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to end the occupation and grant Palestinians their freedom. UE is now the first national U.S. union to endorse BDS. The full resolution is below.
It was a big deal at the time. The endorsement was upheld by the NLRB in 2016:
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reaffirmed its dismissal an unfair labor practice charge brought by an Israeli law firm against a U.S. union, the United Electrical Workers, over its support of protests against Israeli policies including the union’s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) movement.
So it was pretty well-known that UE was anti-Israel, confirmed by its recent statement calling for a cut-off of military aid to Israel after the October 7 Hamas massacre:
As the Israeli military relentlessly bombards 2.4 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and a ground invasion appears imminent, one storied, national union — the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) — is opposing U.S. military aid for the state of Israel whose assault on the besieged strip has already taken the lives of at least 1,800 Palestinians (a number that is quickly rising) and displaced more than 420,000 others. The Israeli government’s overwhelming violence comes on the heels of a surprise attack by Hamas militants on October 7 when 150 were taken hostage and more than 1,300 people, almost entirely Israelis, were killed.
“We certainly don’t support any killing, whether it’s in the form of bombs, guns, starving people through blockades, or through apartheid, from any side,” says Andrew Dinkelaker, the UE’s general secretary treasurer. “U.S. military aid going in is pouring gasoline onto a fire. It encourages that there be military solutions, and military solutions will get more people killed.”
The Cornell Sun article doesn’t mention the UE anti-Israel connection. Perhaps that’s why the unionizing effort switched from AFT (led by Randy Weingarten) in 2017 to the anti-Israel UE. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
This raises the stakes at Cornell which has seen three failed BDS resolution attempts at the student General Assembly in the past decade.
The Cornell campus has been dealing with a rise of antisemitism, including death threats leading to an arrest
If the affiliation with UE signals a renewed BDS effort, that would raise the campus temperature even more.
We’ll have to see how things develop.
I was quoted extensively in a Fox News article about the unionization vote, Cornell University graduate student’s union overwhelmingly votes to join union with strong anti-Israel ties
… William Jacobson, founder of EqualProtect.org and a Cornell University Law Professor, told Fox News Digital that BDS is a plays a large role in antisemitism’s recent rise.
“The BDS movement’s gross dehumanization of Israeli Jews is a prime vehicle giving rise to antisemitism. The reclaiming of the land of Israel by the indigenous Jewish people is the greatest decolonization story of modern times, and had it been any other people, Israel would be celebrated,” Jacobson said. “We cannot allow the union to bring these noxious BDS policies onto campus.”
Jacobson noted that Cornell University’s administration had previously “steadfastly” rejected calls to boycott Israel and has partnered with The Technion of Israel, a top research university in both Israel and the Middle East.
“The Cornell Graduate Student bargaining unit’s affiliation with the United Electrical workers union creates grave concerns because the UE has endorsed the boycott of Israel,” Jacobson said. “Cornell University steadfastly has rejected boycott calls, and even has a partnership with The Technion of Israel at the Cornell Tech campus in NYC. The anti-Israel activists should not be permitted to get in through the union back door what they have been unable to get in through the front door.”
Jacobson said that this is not the first attempt to oppose the university’s partnership with the Israel-based university, but that it is paramount that the Ivy League university’s graduate student union does not “interfere” with Cornell’s relationship with the Technion of Israel.
“The attempts to disrupt the Cornell-Technion Tech Campus relationship have been ongoing for many years, and continue with an event scheduled later this month. Since the Tech Campus is a shining star on Cornell’s horizon, it is critical that the union’s political objectives not interfere with the university’s educational mission,” Jacobson said.
The Cornell Law Professor called on the administration to publicly oppose BDS and oppose “any union effort to inject BDS” into campus life.
“The Cornell administration needs to publicly reiterate its opposition to BDS, and commit to opposing any union effort to inject BDS into the Cornell system either openly or surreptitiously,” Jacobson said.
The university has “left itself open” to BDS-influence by providing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming on campus in student groups, Jacobson said.
“Cornell has left itself open to BDS agitation by pushing group-identity DEI programming using a racial lens, leaving Jews on the sideline,” Jacobson said. “Student groups are promoting anti-Israel activism around race. Cornell should refocus the campus on the inherent dignity and rights of each individual, rather than identity groups.”
The United Electrical Workers Union and Cornell University did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
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