Charge filed with National Labor Relations Board over BDS-supporting union


The Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center accuses America of of violating the National Labor Relations Act.

A Tel Aviv-based human rights organization continues to use the law to wage battle against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, this time filing a charge with a national labor organization against an American union that endorses boycotts of the Jewish state.

Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center last week filed a charge, signed by its president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and attorney David Abrams, with the National Labor Relations Board. It accuses the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America of violating the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits unions from encouraging workers to participate in secondary boycotts.

During its national convention in Baltimore this past summer, the union adopted a resolution calling on Congress to end military aid to Israel and to pressure the Jewish state to “end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza.” The resolution endorses the BDS movement and encourages union members “at all levels” to participate.

By aligning itself with the BDS movement, Shurat HaDin maintains that it has run afoul of a section of the labor law that reads “it shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor organization or its agents … [to force or require any person] to cease doing business with any other person.”

“We are insisting the NLRB take immediate action against the” union, Darshan-Leitner said in a statement. “We intend to force [it] to abandon its unlawful policies.”

The union, which represents 35,000 workers, recently concluded a labor agreement with General Electric. Darshan-Leitner and Shurat HaDin’s U.S. Counsel Robert J. Tolchin fired off a letter in early September to GE CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt, cautioning Immelt that their center is willing to take legal action to ensure that the company “is not engaged in instituting, promoting or inciting boycotts of the State of Israel, Israeli manufacturers, companies or their products or services.”

Mark A. Nordstrom, senior counsel on labor and employment law for GE, wrote back Sept. 9.

“Your letter notes provisions in the GE-UE collective bargaining agreement calling for non-discrimination and cites GE policies which prohibit all forms of illegal discrimination in its hiring practices,” reads the letter made available to WJW. “We stand by these commitments with respect to treatment of our employees. … We also are committed to upholding the law with respect to non-discrimination in all aspects of our global operations and comply with all U.S. anti-boycott laws and regulations.”

Nordstrom wrote that GE did not endorse the actions of the union, but does not have the “right to control [its] actions as a lawfully constituted labor organization.”

The union, in a recent post on its website, said the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sent it a thank-you note in response to the passage of the resolution. The note was reportedly signed by more than 3,000 individuals and 41 organizations, many of whom are involved in the Palestinian solidarity movement.

“It is a violation of American labor law for the union to encourage its members to cease doing business with Israelis and Israeli companies,” Darshan-Leitner said in a statement. “The [union] needs to decide whether it wants to be a discriminatory hate group targeting Jewish companies or a respected union representing the best interests of its members.”

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