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U.S. Environmental Workers Vote in Favor of Palestinian Freedom in Unprecedented Labor Union Resolution

Members of Progressive Workers Union overwhelmingly supported a measure to boycott Israel and work with Palestinian human rights groups

(Washington, D.C.) – On November 17, the Progressive Workers Union (PWU), representing hundreds of workers across the United States environmental movement, passed a historic resolution in solidarity with Palestinian people with 85% of support and are continuing the calling for an end to Israeli occupation. 

PWU represents workers from 350.org, Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Appalachian Voices, and is the largest union representing staff of environmental nonprofits, with about 500 members. These organizations where PWU members work are well-established, major voices in U.S. politics and elections.

While unions in other industries — from tech to news to roofers — have expressed support for Palestinian freedom, this resolution is unprecedented as far as environmental groups go, and it could set an example for other U.S. conservation groups.

Lornett Vestal of Progressive Workers Union stated, “Over the last several weeks, the people of Gaza have lived in horror under bombardment from Israeli occupation forces, compounding pre-existing environmental injustices and denial of basic resources. Colonial settlers are also using the chaos in Gaza to further encroach on Palestinian land in the West Bank, reminiscent of U.S. colonization of Indigenous lands. As a veteran and environmental activist, I know the U.S. military is one of the world’s worst carbon polluters and tools of the fossil fuel industry. With this resolution passage, PWU stands with millions of people across the globe who called for a ceasefire, an end to needless death, and total liberation for the Palestinian people, which is necessary for climate justice everywhere.”

As a result of this resolution, the union will boycott Israel and actively oppose any workplace practices that contribute to oppression of Palestinians. PWU members are diverse, and the members who introduced the resolution include Muslims, Jews, and people of many nationalities.

This resolution strengthens the commitment and deepens the ability of PWU members to center global justice in their work. People are currently facing repercussions for publicly advocating for Palestinian freedom and calling for a ceasefire in venues such as schools, workplaces, and public spaces. As a union, in order to make our workplace safer for everyone, this resolution draws a clear line about the need for safeguards for employees who adopt a position for Palestinian freedom, especially those who are targeted due to being Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim.

Background

In 2021 members of PWU formed a Palestine Solidarity Group in response to increased violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. One of their first courses of action was to call on Sierra Club to cancel planned trips to Israel. Sierra Club leadership met with representatives from the Adalah Justice Project, NDN Collective, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others to hear the unjust implications of sponsoring such a trip. After agreeing to cancel the trip publicly, Sierra Club flipped and reinstated the trip under pressure and threats from Zionists.

Since that time, the committee has continued to work with the Adalah Justice Project. In June, PWU members who work for the Sierra Club overwhelmingly endorsed the Palestine Solidarity resolution. The latest vote included all members of PWU, not just Sierra Club workers.

Similarly, the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), which is a growing member alliance of 89 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks in the climate justice movement has made “Free Palestine” one of its central issues. Although CJA is not a labor union or affiliated with PWU, many PWU members attended a CJA webinar on Palestine and climate justice prior to the resolution vote. This convergence of environmental advocates addressing injustice in Palestine may be a sign of a tectonic shift in the progressive movement.

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