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Home » Message from James Davis on behalf of the Executive Committee

Message from James Davis on behalf of the Executive Committee

Dear Delegates,

The PSC executive council urges all delegates to attend the DA meeting this Thursday and vote against the resolution on the CUNY Gaza Solidarity encampment, in whatever version that resolution comes before the body.

The question for the DA is not whether the situation in Gaza is dire, but whether the proposed resolutions express good policies for our organization to adopt given the level of disagreement among members and our assessment of the resolution’s likely impacts. The most recent version that was shared on the DA email listserv on May 16 as a substitute for the resolution introduced at the May 9 special meeting would commit the union to 11 actions, including to call for CUNY to divest from all Israeli companies and to boycott all Israeli academic institutions. In some respects the resolution is redundant with steps the PSC has already taken, but where it is not it is ill advised. The clear costs to the union of adopting either of these resolutions – to our internal unity, external support, contract outcome, and the significant time and focus that elected leaders and staff would have to devote to the fallout that we would face – greatly exceed any benefit such a resolution would have for us at the PSC, at CUNY, or in the wider world.

PSC has stood strong for cease fire, academic freedom, and freedom of speech and assembly for us all, including our students. We have spoken out against the charges brought against our members and students, and the police repression of protest. Members who want to organize and speak out on issues related to the war in Gaza should do so, knowing that their union defends their rights.

We are committed to social justice unionism. Moving union policies towards our social justice goals and vision should always involve wide and inclusive discussion, consultation with our members, and sober consideration of the consequences of our actions. This was true before the 2018 Janus decision and it is especially true now. As a leadership body, we may find ourselves at odds with members and, at times, at odds with many members. But when we establish trust in our processes, assume good faith among opposing views, and listen to one another, we move with less risk of losing the solidarities that bind us across our differences.

Today PSC members remain divided on whether to take any further positions on the war in Gaza or wider issues of Israel-Palestine politics, let alone what those positions might be. These resolutions ask us to endorse elements of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, but there is no reason to think that this stance has broad support among PSC members.

We are a union; our members join because they have a common employer: it is our shared interests vis-a-vis our boss that brings us together and forms the core of our solidarity. It is our responsibility and obligation as elected delegates to find and forge those places where our broad membership can find solidarity and power.

Resolutions can be imperfect vehicles for the kinds of dialogue and debate that allow the PSC to engage both the bread and butter AND social justice issues that we care about. They should be the outcome of organizing and discussion–not the cause of greater division and silences. In the past, the union debated our position on the Iraq war for months before taking action. When we form contract demands, we spend months discussing possible proposals in chapter meetings and delegate assemblies. This deliberation serves our members and our strength. But in June 2021, we did not engage our members on the Palestine solidarity resolution, and thousands of our members were angered and offended, hundreds threatened to quit, and more than 100 did. Executive council members, chapter chairs, and PSC staff spent countless hours that summer, and over the past three years, dealing with the fallout. The resolution before us, to the extent it has been discussed among chapters, has been divisive – those who feel strongly are split, and more and more are asking, why is the union getting involved? PSC support for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and research collaborations would reverse longstanding PSC policy and has not been discussed in chapter meetings. Such support would undoubtedly figure into the lawsuit that the Freedom Foundation and six former PSC members brought against the PSC, which falsely represents the union as antisemitic, and under that falsehood argues that no union in the country should be entitled to exclusive representation, as the plaintiffs seek to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The vote on this resolution is not a referendum on how seriously delegates take the crisis in Gaza. It is a decision about whether new policies are appropriate for the PSC to adopt. We feel an obligation to safeguard the union’s strength and to do everything we can to expand public support for the university, for our members and students and their communities. As an expression of that obligation, we will vote to reject this resolution and we ask you to join with us.

In solidarity,

James Davis on behalf of the executive council

Published: May 22, 2024 | Last Modified: June 2, 2024

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