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Second-Largest Union in US Calls for “Immediate” Ceasefire in Gaza

The statement goes a step further than some calls for a ceasefire by demanding an end to the occupation of Palestine.

Wisconsin workers and union members discuss the need for unions for all at a roundtable discussion on October 25, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) called for an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza on Monday, adding to a growing chorus of voices who are calling for a ceasefire as Israel’s genocidal assault has killed over 25,000 Palestinians so far, with thousands missing under the rubble.

In a statement, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry cited Israel’s systematic dismantling of the infrastructure for basic needs in Gaza — with bombings, starvation and disease threatening the lives of everyone in the region — as reasoning behind the call.

“We call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and the delivery of life-saving food, water, medicine and other resources to the people of Gaza,” Henry said.

“Our call for a ceasefire is a call for peace, rooted in the pain that SEIU members are feeling, from the Jewish member concerned for her son’s safety in Tel Aviv, to the Muslim member who immigrated to this country from the Middle East to escape war and violence, to the hundreds of thousands of SEIU healthcare workers who see themselves in the healthcare workers in Gaza who have been killed trying to save lives,” Henry continued.

The SEIU is the second largest union in the U.S., with nearly 2 million members. This makes it the largest union to call for a ceasefire after United Auto Workers, the next largest to back the idea, did so in December. The National Education Association (NEA) has faced pressure from members to also join the push for a ceasefire, but has so far resisted doing so.

SEIU’s statement is a testament to the sustained growth of the movement for a Gaza ceasefire. It is also a significant move within the labor sphere, as labor reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley pointed out, with union labor having been employed to manufacture weapons in the U.S. that officials are funneling to Israel to continue killing Palestinians en masse.

Henry’s statement goes a step further than some institutional calls for a ceasefire by also demanding an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

“We call on elected leaders to come together to bring an end to the violence and demand a peaceful resolution that ensures both lasting security for the Israeli people and a sustained end to decades of occupation, blockades and lack of freedom endured by the Palestinian people. This war must end, as it is expanding into a regional conflict,” Henry said. “It is time for long-term solutions that will bring safety, peace, democracy, and justice to all in the region.”

Other labor unions like the American Postal Workers Union and United Electrical Workers have joined the call for a ceasefire; 1199SEIU, a subsidiary of the SEIU and the largest health care union in the U.S. with over 450,000 workers, backed the idea in December, citing the vast damage that Israel had already done to the health care system in Gaza.

“International humanitarian law and the laws of war must be upheld without exception, which include the inviolability of healthcare facilities,” 1199SEIU’s executive council said in a statement.

Recently, Ben & Jerry’s became likely the largest multinational corporation to back the movement, with its board chair calling for a “permanent and immediate” ceasefire last week.

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