The US labor movement has had an exciting few years. Labor unions are gaining popularity among the general public as workers organize at new shops from Amazon to Starbucks to Harvard. Perhaps most critically, legacy unions are experiencing a democratic upsurge, with both the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers (UAW) recently electing militant leaders. This revival has also been expanding labor’s purview, with unions increasingly taking on demands that exceed “bread-and-butter” concerns about wages and benefits.
But the renaissance in labor is now being tested, as rank-and-file workers begin to demand that their unions break long-standing ties with Israel and materially support Palestinian liberation. This challenge is particularly stark in unions like the UAW, which represent workers producing the weapons being used to kill Palestinians. On this episode of On The Nose, news editor Aparna Gopalan speaks to historian Jeff Schuhrke, organizer Zaina Alsous, and journalist Alex Press about the labor movement’s deep imbrication in Zionism and militarism, the rank-and-file efforts that have challenged this status quo over the decades, and what’s at stake in labor embracing an anti-imperialist politics.
Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”
Articles Mentioned and Further Reading
“The Problem of the Unionized War Machine,” Jeff Schuhrke, Jewish Currents
“US Labor Has Long Been a Stalwart Backer of Israel. That’s Starting to Change,” Jeff Schuhrke, Jacobin
“The UAW Has Had a Big Year. They’re Preparing for an Even Bigger One,” Alex Press, Jacobin
“A Night at the Movies With Brandon Mancilla,” Alex Press, The Nation
“A Working-Class Foreign Policy Is Coming,” Spencer Ackerman, The Nation
“Thousands of Palestinian Workers Have Gone Missing in Israel,” Taj Ali, Jacobin
“This Union Is Famous for Opposing South African Apartheid. Now It’s Standing With Gaza,” Sarah Lazare, The Nation
“Respecting the BDS Picket Line,” Labor for Palestine
“Stop Arming Israel. End All Complicity,” Workers in Palestine