Posted January 4, 2024
On December 16, 2023, nearly 2,000 people, mainly labor activists and their families, gathered in front of Oakland City Hall to demand a cease-fire in Gaza. Demands such as “Ending US military aid to Israel” and “End the Occupation” were also central to the message of the day.
After an hour-long rally, most of the participants marched through downtown Oakland.
The rally counted withincluded significant participation (and speakers) from the teachers union in Oakland (the Oakland Education Association), the teachers union in San Francisco (UESF), and the union representing the UC academic student employees (UAW 2865). The largest Bay Area municipal workers union, SEIU 1021, was also very present; they had just finalized a cease-fire motion that morning. And of course, the longshore workers (ILWU Local 10) was front and center; they have repeatedly refused to unload Israeli vessels and expressed support for the Palestinian struggle, much as they had done in the past with the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
Anti-imperialist groupings such as the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) were also central to the action. There was even a delegation of elementary school students who spoke, calling for solidarity with Palestine.
While there has been growing activism in the ranks of US labor (and even national unions such as the UAW, UE and APWU) calling for a cease fire, this appears to be the first such large rally nationally with an exclusive labor focus. The coalition which organized this mobilization began in October 2023, largely with activists from the OEA (which had passed a motion for cease-fire and ending US military aid, within weeks of Oct.7, much as they had several times in the last ten years). A number of OEA members, many of whom are also in DSA, helped organize a district-wide teach -in on Palestine in November. This created immense controversy in the press, unlike anything we had seen in the union’s past, around international solidarity.
Other unions, in both San Francisco, as well as the East Bay, largely public sector, have taken up the struggle and brought motions to their respective labor councils. Of course, such activity is part of a much larger network of labor activists raising their voices for peace and a cease-fire. (Check the Labor Notes website for articles on this and a list of both US and international unions taking a stand on Gaza).