House Republican Subpoenas Union Over Vote In Favor Of Gaza Cease-Fire

Rep. Virginia Foxx called the cease-fire resolution “antisemitic,” even though it was supported by several Jewish union members.
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Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) on Monday subpoenaed a union over its vote to support a cease-fire in the ongoing war in Gaza ― a resolution that Foxx called “divisive” and “antisemitic.”

The subpoena represents an escalation in months of legal and political pushback against the resolution, which a union of public defenders and social workers in New York approved by a large margin in December.

In late January, Foxx, who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter to the union ― the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, Local 2325 of the United Auto Workers ― writing that the resolution “alienated a sizeable portion of your members” and that it had forced Jewish members of the union “to take a position critical on their faith, Israel, and Israel’s sovereignty.”

Though a handful of ALAA members had publicly objected to the resolution, several organizers in favor of the measure within the union were Jewish. More than 100 Jewish ALAA members have signed onto a statement rejecting “the dishonest conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism” and saying they stand with the Palestinian people “because of our Jewish values, not despite them.” The resolution ultimately passed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Dec. 19. Just a couple of weeks prior, United Auto Workers, ALAA’s parent union, itself became the largest union to call for a cease-fire. Regional UAW director Brandon Mancilla called Foxx’s letter “McCarthyism plain and simple.”

Foxx wrote Monday that she was formally subpoenaing information about the resolution after the union declined to respond to her January request for documents and information related to the vote. She said that the information sought would be used “to help the Committee consider and develop potential legislation aimed at ensuring that bargaining unit members are aware of their rights and that unions respect the rights of their members.”

ALAA president Lisa Ohta stood by the resolution in a statement to HuffPost Monday.

“We stand by our resolution in support of a free Palestine, which was passed overwhelmingly after a full membership vote,” Ohta wrote in an email. “This is a transparent attack on our union’s democratic processes and freedom of speech.”

The subpoena is just the latest backlash against the union’s resolution, which also endorses the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, calls for an “end to Israeli apartheid,” and opposes all current and future military aid to Israel.

Initially, union members faced a public relations battle with their employers, including the Legal Aid Society and the Bronx Defenders, organizations that employ defense attorneys to provide legal representation to indigent defendants.

After a standalone statement in October from Bronx Defenders employees that denounced Israel’s “genocidal actions,” management at the organization put out a press release saying the statement failed to recognize “the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis when commenting on the crisis.” Later, ahead of the union-wide vote, management at the Legal Aid Society warned staff that the resolution could imperil funding, and characterized it as “selfish and privileged.”

The union was then blocked from voting on the resolution at all, after a Nassau County judge paused the vote following a legal challenge from four union members, who argued that “the stench of extreme, rank antisemitism” from the resolution would “haunt” their careers and prevent them from fairly representing Jewish clients. Attorneys for the union argued in response that the “plaintiffs appear to be grasping at a rationale to justify suppressing speech they find offensive.”

Ultimately, after the case was moved to federal court, a judge dissolved the temporary restraining order, and the union voted 1,067-570 to support the cease-fire resolution.

Dave Jamieson contributed reporting.

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