Demonstrators rally in support of a cease-fire

Demonstrators rally in support of a cease-fire in Gaza on October 16, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)

American Postal Workers Union Becomes Largest US Union to Call for Gaza Cease-Fire

"We join the calls for an immediate cease-fire, the release of hostages, and urgently needed massive humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The cries of humanity demand nothing less."

The American Postal Workers Union on Wednesday became the largest U.S. union to call for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, joining a growing labor movement mobilization against Israel's assault on the Palestinian enclave.

Leaders of the APWU, which represents more than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees and close to 2,000 mail workers in the private sector, said in a statement that their union is "shocked and saddened by the tragic and ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine."

"As a union that stands for equality, social justice, human and labor rights, and international solidarity, we unite with unions and people of goodwill around the world in calls for justice and peace," the APWU said. "We unreservedly condemn the Hamas violence of October 7, which killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians and saw the kidnapping of more than 200 people."

"However, Israel's response has made the prospects for peace more remote," the union added. "Over 10,000 innocent civilians, including 4,000 children, have been killed by the relentless and indiscriminate bombing campaign on Gaza. Israel has shut off the flow of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, a war crime. A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding every day in Gaza. Thousands more innocent civilians stand to die wholly preventable deaths."

To put an end to the bloodshed and begin confronting Gaza's appalling humanitarian crisis, APWU called on the Biden administration to "use all its power" as Israel's "primary foreign benefactor" to "help bring about peace in the region, and not use our tax dollars for more war."

"We join the calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, and urgently needed massive humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The cries of humanity demand nothing less," concludes the union's statement, which was signed by APWU president, Mark Dimondstein, executive vice president Debby Szeredy, and secretary-treasurer Elizabeth Powell.

The APWU is one of more than a dozen U.S. labor unions that have called for a cease-fire in Gaza as the leadership of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest union federation, remains silent on the issue—and works to suppress member organizations that are speaking out.

Labor Notes reported last week that after the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council in Olympia, Washington unanimously approved a resolution urging its parent federation to "publicly support an immediate cease-fire and equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis," the national AFL-CIO told council officers that the measure "goes beyond the position that the AFL-CIO has taken" and asked if they intended to "retract the resolution."

"By the end of the week, the council president yielded to the push from the national office, and posts about the resolution were taken down," according to Labor Notes .

During a meeting of the AFL-CIO executive committee last month, Dimondstein—a self-described "anti-Zionist Jew"—called for the AFL-CIO to demand a cease-fire in Gaza, The New York Times reported .

"No other labor leader in the meeting offered vocal support for his position," the Times added.

According to labor historian Jeff Schuhrke, the APWU is the first national union affiliated with the AFL-CIO to publicly endorse a cease-fire in Gaza.

On October 20, the independent United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America issued what it described as a "labor call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Palestine" and urged "all union members" to sign on.

"We, members of the American labor movement, mourn the loss of life in Israel and Palestine," reads the petition , which has been signed by 14 unions so far. "We express our solidarity with all workers and our common desire for peace in Palestine and Israel, and we call on President Joe Biden and Congress to push for an immediate cease-fire and end to the siege of Gaza. We cannot bomb our way to peace. We also condemn any hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, or anyone else."

Intensifying labor demands for a cease-fire come as the Biden administration continues to respond dismissively to the proposal, which has been backed by more than 20 members of Congress, the head of the United Nations, and major human rights groups.

Speaking to members of the press on Thursday, Biden said there is currently "no possibility" of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government, led by far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has taken the same stance against a cease-fire. The Guardian reported Thursday that Netanyahu "rejected a deal for a five-day ceasefire with Palestinian militant groups in Gaza in return for the release of some of the hostages held in the territory."

The White House said Thursday that Israel has agreed to implement four-hour daily "humanitarian pauses" in parts of northern Gaza and open a new corridor for Gazans to flee the area. Israeli forces have been accused of bombing such "safe passage" routes and firing on Gazans attempting to move through them.

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