Why UW Profs Opposes SEIU: Hint .. this has nothing to do with solving the problems faced by underpaid contingent faculty!

Leadership in the unions involved in the BDS push are dominated by far-left activists who often if not inevitably exploit social issues as organizing tools.  Accordingly, the views of the rank and file are often subbordinate to, or even inconsequential to, the motives of leadership.

That’s how a grad student union formed on the basis of a legitimate health insurance concern turned into BDS.

SEIU leadership is dominated by far-left activists. I am quite confident that they would work day and night to impose their far-left ideas on all of us. And keep in mind that the largely self-selected cadre of far-left activist leaders in a UW-SEIU union would have almost unlimited time, energy and money with which to prosecute their agenda, whereas the vast majority of the working stiff faculty at the UW needs to devote a lot of time to teaching, grading, writing proposals, doing science and all that other stuff we do.

Think I’m off my rocker when I assert that small motivated union groups pretty much dominate agendas? Well then consider that the decision to invite SEIU to unionize the UW’s entire faculty was made by just 12 people:

Warmest regards to all,


 Roberta Gold
 I believe the answer (to the issue of poltical action by unions) lies in the distinction made in labor studies between “business unionism” and “social movement unionism.”  Under the former model, a union’s job is to look after members’ bread-and-butter interests, like pay and benefits.  Under the latter, the union still attends to those things but also takes part in broader social justice work such as actions of solidarity with other workers.  The BDS activists within the UAW see themselves as acting in solidarity with Palestinian workers who are under fire.

As one of the early organizers of what became the UW local of the UAW, I can relate the history.  Actually it was the summary suspension of a TA, without due process, that sparked the first round of organizing, but health insurance later became a major issue.  So yes, the local started as a business union.  Now social movement caucuses within the UAW are trying to broaden its mandate.  The main precedent is the support that the UAW, the ILWU and other unions showed for South African workers during the apartheid era.  (They pushed for divestment and, in the case of the longshore workers, refused to unload South African cargo.) As subscribers to this list are well aware, the apartheid-Occupation analogy is a matter of fierce debate, but proponents of BDS find it compelling or at least plausible.

Both business unionism and social movement unionism have their adherents within the world of organized labor.  Whether an SEIU local would endorse BDS would depend on that local’s members.  Currently only a few UAW locals have made such endorsements.


Your Comment