Randi Weingarten, the president of the second-largest teachers’ union in the country, waded into the controversy over Israel's judicial reform, calling for a "general strike" after the Israeli parliament passed a law restricting the Supreme Court's power.
"I’m deeply moved by the fierce protests for democracy in Israel," Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted Saturday morning. "I stand in solidarity with the protesters. Workers have NO rights without democracy. The time is now to get off the fence & take a stand. If ever there was a time for a general strike in Israel, the time is now!"
The law eliminating the Supreme Court's power to strike down a law for being "unreasonable" passed 64-0 after opposition lawmakers abstained in protest. This was the first win in a push by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies in the Knesset to pass a series of judicial reform bills that have been met with massive protests across the country.
"The push to topple democratic consensus in Israel by a right-wing, extreme government, must be challenged," Weingarten said in a press statement. "We are heartened that the Israeli public is challenging them at home, and we pledge to do everything in our power to stand with the pro-democracy protesters and to protect democracy in Israel."
Weingarten's comments on judicial politics abroad come as students back home struggle with post-pandemic learning loss. Recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress found test scores are their lowest in decades. Math scores for 13-year-olds fell to their lowest level since 1990, and reading scores dropped to their lowest since 2004. Amid the learning crisis, Weingarten's union held a conference last week instructing teachers on how to bring LGBTQIA+ ideology, racial equity, and climate justice into classrooms for all ages, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
The teachers' union worked behind the scenes with the federal government to keep schools closed during the pandemic. A report released by House Republicans last year found the Centers for Disease Control "allowed AFT to insert language into the Operational Guidance that made it more likely schools across the country would remain closed after February 2021." AFT-affiliated unions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities kept schools closed until February 2021 and later. Weingarten has claimed she worked to keep schools open.
President Joe Biden has voiced opposition to Netanyahu's judicial reform in recent months, saying in March he hopes the prime minister "walks away from it."
"It looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less," Biden said Sunday. "Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this."
Netanyahu responded to Biden's comments by pointing to his own country's sovereignty, saying Israel "makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends."