JLC Condemns Attempts to use Ukrainian Jews as an Excuse to Destabilize Ukraine

April 18, 2014: New York, NY -- The Jewish Labor Committee today condemned the attempt to use the Ukrainian Jews as an excuse for Russia to destabilize and take over portions of Ukraine, stated JLC President Stuart Appelbaum.

On March 27, 2014, a group of prominent Ukrainian Jews -- businessmen, scientists, scholars, political figures, rabbis, artists and others -- issued an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, refuting his statements that they were being humiliated, discriminated against and in danger of a pogrom being launched against them by fascists attempting to dominate the government in Kiev. The group pointed out that while they are well aware that those who helped overthrow former Ukrainian president Viktor Yankovych included some ultra-nationalist groups who are indeed anti-Semitic, they "are well controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government - which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services." The open letter went on to state: "Your certainty of the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine does not correspond to the actual facts. It seems you have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year."

Continue reading "JLC Condemns Attempts to use Ukrainian Jews as an Excuse to Destabilize Ukraine" »

Your help needed re Perelman Jewish Day School

Dear friends:

We are reaching out to you now to make your voices heard, as we have done.

Teachers at the Perelman Jewish Day School have been members of a union local and represented by their union since 1976. Their contract ends on August 31. On March 24, following a closed door meeting, the school’s board of directors informed the school's faculty that the school would no longer recognize the union as of the end of the contract. The teachers work at campuses in Wynnewood and Elkins Park, PA.

The 59 union members were told to attend a night meeting with the board with less than 24-hours' notice to learn the details of a plan that took 10 months to develop and to pick up individual job offers and a new “Faculty Handbook.” They had to sign the individual contracts within two weeks or risk losing their job. At a meeting on Wednesday morning, union members were denied union representation, despite the board saying that the union contract was still in effect until the end of August. Under the new terms that would take effect in the fall, faculty members could be fired at any time without cause, a hearing or any recourse. Teachers would also give up seniority, tenure and other rights that are guaranteed under their current collective bargaining agreement.

The Perelman Jewish Day School, which is associated with the Conservative Movement’s Solomon Schechter school network, has three key words on its website: academics, ethics, and community. Yet, as the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee (PJLC) pointed out in its public statement, “by dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.” {Please see the PJLC’s statement, below and in its entirety online here }

Continue reading "Your help needed re Perelman Jewish Day School" »

Philadelphia JLC Statement on the Perelman Jewish Day School Situation

(April 3, 2014) Philadelphia -- Parents and community leaders have reached out to the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee regarding the Perelman Jewish Day School board’s unilateral withdrawal of union recognition and refusal to bargain with the teacher over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Philadelphia JLC stands firmly with the teachers and their union as they fight for their collective bargaining rights, and also in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism.

By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.

Continue reading "Philadelphia JLC Statement on the Perelman Jewish Day School Situation" »

“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

Graphic from website of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

(March 17, 2014) New York -- The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting one week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on raising the Federal minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States.

"The Torah provides the moral imperative: `Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ In practical terms, that means that we should support a just minimum wage - a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and survive in our society. And we must partner with others to ensure it happens.

Continue reading "“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta" »

2-25-1934: JLC is formed - first goal is to oppose rise of Nazism in Europe

fight NAZISM and FASCISM 4 WEB.jpg
Poster by Mitchell Loeb, 1934. The Jewish Labor Committee, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Labor Chest to Combat Nazism and Fascism, and others made use of it in outreach campaigns.

February 25, 1934, New York, NY - The Jewish Labor Committee was formed by Yiddish-speaking immigrant trade union leaders, and leaders of such groups as the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring, the Jewish Labor Bund, and the United Hebrew Trades, in response to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

More than 1,000 delegates - representing about 300 different groups, including such unions as the ILGWU and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America, a range of union locals and a number of Jewish organizations - gathered at the Central Plaza in New York City's Lower East Side to organize a permanent body to fight Fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism, and to study the challenges confronting working people not only abroad, but in the United States as well. The delegates had as a top priority mobilizing opposition to Nazism and Fascism in Europe. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) article on the conference appeared in the Feb. 26, 1934 issue of the Jewish Daily Bulletin, online here.

Continue reading "2-25-1934: JLC is formed - first goal is to oppose rise of Nazism in Europe" »

In Support of University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Local 6456
Overpass Light Brigade shows support for striking UIC faculty members. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

February 18, 2014, Chicago, IL - Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, members of United Faculty Local 6456, AFT-IFT, AAUP, voted to go on a two-day strike as part of their efforts to ensure their students get what all students deserve: reasonable class sizes, individualized instruction, support for cutting-edge research, and classrooms and labs that are safe and well-equipped. These are the rights of every student.
From the outset, the UIC United Faculty has bargained and the administration has stalled. While the administration rakes in millions in profits, and has hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves, it refuses to pay faculty what they deserve. The UIC administration can’t claim they have offered a fair contract when newly hired faculty make more than faculty who have dedicated many years to the institution; when some nontenure-track faculty earn just $30,000 a year — less than a living wage in Chicago; or when faculty who have been teaching more than 10 years have to wait until August each year to see if they still have a job for the upcoming school year.
The Chicago Jewish Labor Committee has issued the statement below.
You can do something as well! Click here to sign a petition in support of the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago!


Continue reading "In Support of University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Local 6456" »

A Special Bond: Martin Luther King, Jr., Israel and American Jewry

by Stuart Appelbaum

This year, U.S. Jews, like other Americans, will mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by remembering him as a powerful voice against racism and for civil rights. But, for Jews, Dr. King was also something else: a uniquely important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and for a secure Israel.

Today, Dr. King’s close bond with the Jewish community is treated only as a small footnote of his life and work. But, toward the end of his life, Dr. King devoted significant time and energy to strengthening what were becoming increasingly strained ties between black Americans and U.S. Jews. One issue Dr. King was particularly concerned with was the growing mischaracterization of Zionism as racism.

Dr. King spoke and wrote often about Israel. However, the true depth of Dr. King’s commitment to Israel was readily apparent in a September, 1967 letter he sent to Adolph Held, then president of the organization I now lead, the Jewish Labor Committee. Dr. King wrote Held after the Jewish leader contacted him regarding press accounts of a conference that Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference participated in. At the meeting, strongly worded resolutions blasting Zionism and embracing the position of the Arab powers had been considered.

Understanding Held’s worries, Dr. King explained that, beyond offering opening remarks, he had no part in the conference. But, Dr. King said, had he been present during the discussion of the resolutions “I would have made it crystal clear that I could not have supported any resolution calling for black separatism or calling for a condemnation of Israel and an unqualified endorsement of the policy of the Arab powers.”

Continue reading "A Special Bond: Martin Luther King, Jr., Israel and American Jewry" »

2013 11-Month Activity Report & Membership Form

You're invited to read the Jewish Labor Committee's Activity Report for the first 11 months of 2013, online here

To join the JLC, or to renew your membership, just print out, fill out, and mail back the (two-sided) JLC membership form online here.

In Opposition To Academic Boycotts

December 19, 2013: On Shanker Blog, "the voice of the Albert Shanker Institute," JLC President Rita Freedman discusses recent calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to pressure Israel into an agreement with Palestine.

There is a growing, worldwide effort to ostracize Israel and to make it into a pariah state. (This despite the fact that Israel is still the only democratic country in the Middle East.) A key ingredient of this campaign is the call to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions on Israel (known as BDS for boycott, divest, sanction). Within the world of higher education, this takes the form of calls to boycott all Israeli academic institutions, sometimes including boycotting all Israeli scholars and researchers. The rationale is that this will somehow pressure Israel into an agreement with the Palestinians, one which will improve their lot and lead to an independent Palestinian state that exists adjacent to the State of Israel (although it is worth noting that some in the BDS movement envision a future without the existence of Israel).

Certainly, the goals of improving life for the Palestinian people, building their economy and supporting their democratic institutions – not to mention supporting the creation of an independent Palestine that is thriving and getting along peacefully with its Israeli neighbor – are entirely worthy.

And, certainly, Israeli (and indeed Palestinian) policies that obstruct progress toward these goals are not above criticism (a great deal of which can be found within the free press and lively opposition among the many political parties and independent judiciary within Israel itself). Individuals and groups in other nations should make their views known as well, and that includes the world of academia. Open discussion and debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it should be encouraged. However, those discussions should not be one-sided. They should consider the behavior of all those involved in the dispute. Otherwise, they are likely to produce the result opposite to the one intended.

An academic boycott of Israel is that kind of counter-productive action, effectively suppressing free and open speech, debate, exploration and constructive problem-solving. It is the antithesis of academic freedom, a basic principle of higher education, and is inconsistent with the basic democratic value of free expression. Nevertheless, on December 16, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities, making it the largest group of U.S. scholars to do so.

Continue reading "In Opposition to Academic Boycotts"

JLC Opposes Draft ASA Academic Boycott Resolution

December 12, 2013, New York, NY - The President of the Jewish Labor Committee, Stuart Appelbaum, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) is extremely troubled by and stands opposed to the recommendation made by the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) that its members vote for a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel academic institutions. Such a resolution would be an anathema to academic freedom and is totally inconsistent with basic democratic value of free expression.

Academic boycotts assume that all Israeli academic institutions and the people associated with them – whether professors or researchers – are inherently guilty. It would essentially also hinder the exchange of important scientific research that can benefit all of humankind.

Boycotts of this nature – especially since they are directed at only one party -- undermine hopes for a peaceful and just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. These actions do not encourage compromise; rather, they hurt moderates on each side and encourage extremists and rejectionists on both sides. Ironically, such a resolution would discourage an open discussion – in Israel, Palestine and in organizations like the ASA -- one that considers the behavior of all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it.

Instead, the JLC encourages organizations to be even-handed as they work to press both sides to negotiate in good faith, to support academic and other efforts that build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, to support programs to grow democratic institutions throughout the Middle East and to support moderates on both sides to promote meaningful dialogue and exchanges.

For these reasons, we encourage the members of the ASA to vote against this resolution.

JLC Western Region President Arrested at L.A. Protest against Poverty Wages

Nov 7 2013 JLC WR at Walmart Workers Rally in LA.jpg
From left, Gary Lasley, Secretary/Treasurer, Professional Musicians Local 47; John Acosta, Vice President, Professional Musicians Local 47; Joe Ayala, Vice President, NABET-CWA Local 53; Leslie Gersicoff, Executive Director, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region; Floyd Glen-Lambert, President, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region; Barbara Huss Hartmann, Board, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, AFSCME 36; Ethan Harris, Lead Organizer, Professional Musicians Local 47. Photograph via the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region.

November 7, 2013: Los Angeles, CA - Hundreds of labor, faith and community activists rallied in the street in front of the Los Angeles Chinatown Walmart to protest that corporation's low-wage poverty policies. Enthused by great music, speeches, puppets and the presence of Our Walmart workers, even those still inside shopping could not help but notice that something very important was happening here.

Continue reading "JLC Western Region President Arrested at L.A. Protest against Poverty Wages" »

A Remedy for Inequality

October 29, 2013: The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Middle Class Gets Wise” (Sunday Review, Oct. 20):

Jonathan Cowan and Jim Kessler are right that there are a number of solutions to the problem of income inequality, including getting additional education. But one solution that they and most others overlook is removing the obstacles to allowing workers to form labor unions of their choice.

It is not surprising that income inequality has grown as union density has declined.

Through collective bargaining, workers can improve their own incomes, benefits and working conditions. But they also help nonunion workers through a spillover effect in related industries and by mobilizing their members to increase the minimum wage and other progressive causes.

President, Jewish Labor Committee
New York, Oct. 21, 2013

Friday, Oct. 25: Calling Eric Cantor for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Immigrants & Lady Liberty 4 web.jpg
"Welcome to the Land of Freedom," immigrants on board the steamer Germanic. Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 2, 1887

Fixing the USA's broken immigration system is an economic and moral imperative – and we have an opportunity to help make it happen.

As the House Majority Leader, Representative Eric Cantor has the power to push for the vote that would make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.

Rep. Cantor has spoken eloquently about the American Jewish immigrant experience and the urgent need to reform our broken system. At the same time, he has refused to let comprehensive immigration reform come to a vote in the House.

The Jewish Labor Committee and other members of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable are asking American Jews from across the country to call Eric Cantor’s office on Friday, Oct. 25th, with this simple message: "Let your people vote."

Join us. Make a difference.

Continue reading "Friday, Oct. 25: Calling Eric Cantor for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" »

The High Holidays are the Time to Help Domestic Workers

Domestic Workers Photo Exhibit Event Quincy MA August 10 2013.jpg
Domestic Workers Photo Exhibit Event, August 10, 2013, Quincy, MA

by Marya Axner
Regional Director, New England Jewish Labor Committee

[From Boston's newspaper, The Jewish Advocate, issue dated August 23, 2013]:
As Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah approach, I would like to discuss a labor issue that is close to home. In fact, this issue is in our homes. I am talking about the rights and the dignity of the nannies, housecleaners and caregivers that take care of our homes and families.

This year, the New England Jewish Labor Committee is gearing up to support the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers in its legislative campaign for a Massachusetts Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. The committee is calling on the Jewish community, and in particular, the employers of domestic workers, to help.

The proposed Bill of Rights would establish basic workplace rights for domestic workers employed in private homes, including meal and rest breaks; clarity on what constitutes work time; job-protected sick time; and freedom from discrimination and sexual harassment.

In Massachusetts, unlike many states, domestic workers already have minimum wage and overtime protections. In 1970, Mary Evans Wilson, a recruiter for the NAACP, championed An Act Making Domestic Employees Subject to the Labor Laws, which provided for those protections. She and her sisters were combating decades of historical exclusion of domestic workers from labor law dating back to 1938 when the Fair Standards Labor Act was passed. Because U.S. Representatives from the South did not want their black workers to have the rights that other workers had, they lobbied to exclude domestic workers and agricultural workers from labor laws. Northern Representatives acquiesced, and the exclusion became law.

Continue reading "The High Holidays are the Time to Help Domestic Workers" »

Justice means raising NJ’s minimum wage

by Rita Freedman and Arieh Lebowitz
New Jersey Jewish News - August 28, 2013

This November, New Jerseyans have the opportunity to support the economic fortunes of more than 400,000 residents who work for the lowest wages in the state. There is a constitutional amendment on the ballot to increase the minimum wage in New Jersey from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour, which also provides an annual cost-of-living adjustment to ensure the minimum wage keeps pace with the cost of basic necessities. The last time the legislature voted to raise the minimum wage was 2005. The minimum wage has simply not kept pace with the cost of living in New Jersey.

The Jewish communities of New Jersey — and indeed across the United States — remember full well the situation confronting so many of our ancestors as they came to this country: the prospects of low wages and hard jobs in the garment trades and other sectors. All of us should remember the difficulties of making ends meet with poor wages, tough economies, and the effort that went into not only getting by but trying to assure a better life for one’s children.

The challenges confronting those who earn the minimum wage today are no less daunting. More than 400,000 hardworking New Jersey men and women of every race, creed, and faith earn the minimum wage, which is lower than those of 19 other states and the District of Columbia, despite the fact that the Garden State’s cost of living is about 30 percent higher than the national average. They are the workers who care for our elderly parents, pump our gas, pick our produce, clean our offices, and wash dishes at restaurants. The vast majority of them work multiple minimum wage jobs to support their families; they are still struggling. They are faced with terrible choices, such as which bills to pay every month, choices about rent or heat or groceries or medicine that none among us should be forced to make.

Continue reading "Justice means raising NJ’s minimum wage " »

Join the Campaign to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage!

by Stuart Appelbaum
President, Jewish Labor Committee

It’s not that often that Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah fall so close together on the calendar. This year they are but three days apart, providing an opportunity for some introspection on an issue that should be of concern to the entire American Jewish community: the pitiful state of the federal minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage isn’t a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, today’s full-time minimum-wage worker makes just $15,080 a year. Even in a family with two people working minimum-wage jobs, household income hovers at the poverty level. And that’s assuming they are lucky enough to have full-time jobs.

Moreover, the makeup of minimum-wage workers has changed. James Surowiecki, writing in The New Yorker on August 12th, noted a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones showing that “low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever.”

“More important,” Surowiecki wrote, “more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families.”

Meanwhile, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted.

Continue reading "Join the Campaign to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage!" »

On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

by Stuart Appelbaum
President, Jewish Labor Committee

On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for a political rally known as the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

Under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph and with the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin as its principal organizer, this march, organized by a broad coalition of civil rights, labor, and religious groups, was one of the largest political demonstrations for human rights in the history of United States. It was designed to put the political, economic, and social discrimination suffered by African Americans squarely on the national agenda. The massive turnout, the dignity and discipline of its nonviolent plea for justice, and the grandeur of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech made it a key moment in the long struggle for civil rights. Part of its legacy was passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of the many Jewish organizations that participated in the March, none brought more people to the event that day than the Jewish Labor Committee.
Image from The American Prospect

Continue reading "On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" »

Stay at Unionized Hotels and ...

... Protect Yourself with this Contract Clause!*


New England Jewish Labor Committee activists at a 200-person-strong rally in July 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown (l-r: Sandra Korn, Dave Borrus. Martha Plotkin, Amy Mazur, Roberta Bauer, Marya Axner, Jim Marshall, Dick Bauer, Stephanie Ainbinder, and Glen Dansker)

(August 23, 2013) - In 2009, we learned that nearly 100 hotel workers at three Boston-area Hyatt properties were fired, only to be replaced by other housekeepers, who were paid less money, and whom the fired workers had actually trained in their work. Since then, we have been involved in support of not only the Boston-area Hyatt hotel workers who lost their jobs, but hotel workers in Hyatt properties across North America who have been working to secure decent working conditions and a measure of dignity on the job.

Based on our understanding of Jewish tradition that teaches us to be in solidarity with workers and not to profit from the products of exploited labor, the Jewish Labor Committee pledged not to hold events at Hyatt hotels where there are labor disputes. And when in July 2012 the hotel workers at Hyatt hotels across North America called for a global boycott of the overwhelming majority of these hotels, we not only joined in support of the boycott, but encouraged others to do so.

One year later, earlier this month, we were more than happy to learn news of an important development in the ongoing campaign to secure better working conditions for the hotel workers employed by the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. UNITE HERE, the union representing workers in the hospitality sector across North America, reached an agreement with Hyatt. The agreement, which will go into effect upon ratification of Hyatt union contracts in San Francisco, Hawaii, Chicago, and Los Angeles, sets forth a clear process for Hyatt workers at a number of hotels to secure union representation through a fair, mutually acceptable process, and creates a framework for an ongoing relationship between the union and the management of Hyatt. The contracts in the cities listed above would be inline with city standards in the industry, and include substantial wage increases, quality health and pension benefits, and job security. As part of the accord, upon ratification of the union contracts, UNITE HERE will end its global boycott of Hyatt.

It is clear, however, that this development would not have taken place without the steadfastness of these hotel workers, the concerted hard work of the labor movement, and the support of many in the community at large.

Many of you refused to book your events at Hyatt hotels. However, some of you could not because you had booked your event before the boycott was called and you would have suffered considerable financial penalties by canceling. It is typical to arrange hotel accommodations well in advance of events, and in the interim, a labor dispute could arise which may put you in the unfortunate position of crossing a picket line or incurring significant financial penalties.

*There are ways to avoid this situation. Continue reading to see this Contract Clause.

Continue reading "Stay at Unionized Hotels and ..." »

Jewish Labor Committee Endorses New Jersey’s “Raise The Wage” Campaign

Urges Passage of Question to be on Ballots across Garden State on November 5th

August 12, 2013 – The Jewish Labor Committee announced today that it has endorsed the campaign to ensure passage of the ballot measure on November 5th to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour and provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment. Spearheading the campaign is Working Families United for New Jersey.

“Raising the minimum wage in New Jersey is the just thing to do” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee. “On August 10th across the state, Jews read a key passage from the Torah, namely, `Justice Justice shall you pursue.’ If we are to provide a measure of justice where it counts to the least-well paid among us, we have to all do our part to ensure passage of this important ballot measure on November 5th.”

Continue reading "Jewish Labor Committee Endorses New Jersey’s “Raise The Wage” Campaign" »

JLC President Appelbaum Signs onto Letter to PM Netanyahu;

Supports Decision to Participate in Kerry Peace Initiative

June 25, 2013: New York, NY - As part of the Jewish Labor Committee’s support for the Kerry Peace Initiative to re-start negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, JLC President Stuart Appelbaum signed onto a community letter to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter, a project of the Israel Policy Forum, has received wide media coverage.
See the Al-Monitor’s “American Jewry Embraces Netanyahu's Decision on Peace Talks,” for instance. The Forward published the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s “140 U.S. Jewish Leaders Sign Letter of Support for Talks”; The Times of Israel had “US Jews lend support to peace talks in new letter”; The Washington Post’s On Faith blog published the Religion News Service’s “Prominent American Jews embrace Kerry peace talks.”

Please see letter below; the letter, including the signatories, is online here and as a PDF here.

l-r: Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at the State Department in Washington.

Continue reading "JLC President Appelbaum Signs onto Letter to PM Netanyahu;" »

Jewish Labor Committee Supports Kerry Peace Initiative, Opposes European Union's New Guidelines

June 19, 2013: New York, NY - Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement today:

With the tentative agreement that has just been announced, it appears that talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians may resume for the first time since 2010. The Jewish Labor Committee welcomes this progress and commends U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his commitment to bringing this about, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to returning to the bargaining table. While clearly there are still differences, these can be resolved only if the two sides sit down together to negotiate.

One development that that could have undermined the tentative agreement, however, was the European Union's announcement that it will ban financing of and cooperation with Israeli institutions in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The new guidelines say that agreements providing research grants, scholarships and cultural exchanges must state explicitly that they apply only to Israel's pre-1967 borders.

The announcement, particularly coming at this delicate time, could have served to harden stances on both sides. Israelis reacted by reiterating their position that there should be no per-conditions for talks, and many feel that this constitutes undue economic and political pressure. Moreover, the pressure is only on one side, with none exerted on the Palestinians to return to the bargaining table, and in fact could have undermined efforts to convince them to negotiate.

We hope that both Israelis and Palestinians return to the bargaining table with a seriousness that includes a willingness to be flexible and to make fair compromises that lead to a two-state solution that benefits both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Labor unions' Iranian opportunity and responsibility

Western workers' organizations must counter Tehran's hostility toward independent activists
By Stuart Appelbaum and Benjamin Weinthal / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, July 15, 2013
Afshin Osanloo, 42, jailed Iranian labor activist and political prisoner, who died in notorious Rajai-Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj. Photo via the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran.

On June 20, less than a week after the election of Iran’s new president Hassan Rowhani, the 42-year-old Iranian trade unionist Afshin Osanloo died under mysterious circumstances in prison. Times are extremely tough for struggling independent labor activists in Iran.

Iran’s notorious hanging judge, Abolqasem Salavati, sentenced Osanloo in 2010 to five years in prison for his effort to exercise employee rights in a country where independent unions and meaningful worker rights are non-existent. His tragic fate mirrors the death of the 35-year-old blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died while in police custody last November.

The court accused Osanloo of “collusion and assembly with the intent to act against national security.” In other words, Iran’s rulers raised bogus charges to criminalize democratic union activity.

Sohrab Soleimani, the head of Tehran Province Prisons, claimed Osanloo “died after a heart attack.” But his sister, Fereshteh Osanloo, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that “my brother did not have any heart conditions. He was well. He exercised in prison every day. He had an in-person visit with my mother two weeks ago. My mother said that Afshin was healthy and doing well.”

In an ominously written letter to international labor federations last August from prison, Osanloo captured the desperation and dogged optimism among working class Iranians. His appeal aimed to spark action from human rights groups and international organizations to stop Iran’s violent crackdown on independent union organizing efforts.

“We want you [The International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Labor Organization] to tell them how in our country we have no labor or human rights, and how unjust and illegal it all is and how the smallest complaint about our working conditions causes us to be severely tortured and imprisoned,” wrote Osanloo.

Continue reading "Labor unions' Iranian opportunity and responsibility" »

A Petition to the Management of Walmart: Join Major Clothes Retailers in a Combined Worker Safety Agreement Now!

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman / AFP / Getty Images via CNN Money

Sign our petition calling on Walmart's management to join the international agreement to stop disasters like the Bangladesh tragedy. Just click here.

The world watched in horror as over 1,100 garment workers were killed in April when a substandard factory in Bangladesh collapsed while they were at their jobs. Similar tragedies are killing and injuring men and women in many places around the globe where labor costs are low and working conditions are unconscionable.

It took this building’s collapse, following a disastrous fire in Bangladesh earlier this year, as it took the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York over a century ago, to focus the attention of the world on addressing the need for better safety standards for those who make the clothes the world wears.

Continue reading "A Petition to the Management of Walmart: Join Major Clothes Retailers in a Combined Worker Safety Agreement Now!" »

Chicago Teachers at Illinois Holocaust Museum

July2 _2013 Teachers at IL_Holocaust M4web.jpg
Photo by Abbey Romanek

(July 2nd, 2013) Skokie, IL - Twenty-two teachers, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), took a special group tour today of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie. Eli Fishman (right), Director of the Chicago Region of the Jewish Labor Committee, organizes these trips, working with the CTU Quest Center, which is looking forward to bringing even more teachers to such programs in the future. A number of teachers expressed their appreciation for the 'bullying' exhibit in the museum, part of the Museum’s Anti-Bullying Initiative: the Museum has expanded its anti-bullying programming to include new resources and training for students, teachers, administrators and community organizations, such as its "Steps to Respect Bullying Prevention Program," which teaches elementary students to recognize, refuse, and report bullying; to be assertive; and to build friendships.

Recently added to the Website