Israeli NGO calls on GE to void agreement with pro-BDS union

Marcy Oster

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An Israeli-based nongovernmental organization called on General Electric Co. to void a labor accord with an American union that recently endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

In a letter sent last week to GE CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv and the organization’s U.S. Counsel Robert J. Tolchin, called on Immelt to rescind a recently concluded labor agreement with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, or UE, as the union recently announced its endorsement of the BDS movement.

Shurat HaDin is willing to take legal action to ensure that GE “is not engaged in instituting, promoting or inciting boycotts of the State of Israel, Israeli manufacturers, companies or their products or services,” the letter said.

“By calling to boycott Israel, [the union] is actually working against their own [rules] because they are supposed to work with people of all backgrounds,” Darshan-Leitner said. “GE is a publicly traded company and if they are involved in discriminating acts against Jews, against Israelis, their shareholders will not put up with it.”

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A new labor agreement between the union and GE was ratified in June. UE represents approximately 3,500 GE employees.

The resolution, passed in mid-August at UE’s national convention in Baltimore, calls on Congress to end military aid to Israel, and to “pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza” and negotiate a peace agreement that includes the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The resolution further endorses the BDS movement and urges the union “at all levels” to become engaged in BDS.

In the body of the resolution, Israel is accused of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and waging a “merciless war” on Gaza in the summer 2014. While Palestinian death tolls are noted, no mention is made of Israeli military and civilian deaths nor the actions of Hamas militants.

A spokesperson for GE said in a statement, “The United Electric Workers are a separate entity independent from GE. GE complies with all U.S. anti-boycott laws and regulations.”

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