Pro-BDS Union Backs Bernie

Sanders 'humbled' by endorsement

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
August 27, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders welcomed the endorsement of a union that has embraced the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Sanders announced on Monday that he was "humbled" after the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) voted to endorse him in the 2020 election.

"I am humbled to receive the endorsement of my union brothers and sisters from UE," Sanders said in a statement. "We are running a true working class campaign, which speaks directly to workers and confronts the massive inequality we see in our society today."

UE General President Peter Knowlton cited the socialist Vermont senator's decision to march with striking Pennsylvania workers as a factor in the endorsement.

"From four decades of actively supporting UE members and other workers in Vermont, to his vocal support for our 1,700 members in Erie, Pennsylvania who went on a nine-day strike this past winter, Bernie Sanders has always made it clear which side he is on," Knowlton said in a statement.

In 2015, UE became the first American labor organization to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. The union said it aimed to "pressure Israel to end the occupation." It passed a resolution accusing Israel of "apartheid," adding that "extremism in Israel has grown more severe."

"Because Israel has been unwilling to engage in real negotiations to bring about a just resolution to the occupation, this is a necessary step for labor to take in order to bring about a peaceful end to the conflicts there," union executive Carl Rosen said on the union website.

UE also endorsed the Sanders campaign during its insurgent run against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to request for comment.

Israel supporters in the United States said that the Sanders campaign needed to repudiate the BDS sentiments of the union. David Brog, executive director of the Maccabee Task Force, said that "BDS crosses the line from the legitimate criticism of Israel into the anti-Semitic scapegoating of Israel." He called the endorsement a "critical test" for Sanders. He noted that the senator had rejected the BDS cause in the past, but urged him to strongly repudiate the movement given the momentum BDS has received among liberal activists and congressional Democrats such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D. Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) in recent months.

"Is he going to stand by his beliefs or follow the unfortunate lead of Reps Omar and Tlaib? So long as the UE endorses BDS, Sanders should reject their endorsement and use the opportunity to explain why BDS is so dangerous to the dialogue and regional cooperation that are prerequisites for peace," Brog said.

The UE did not return request for comment about whether the union stands by the 2015 resolution.