Coalition of Black Trade Unionists demands ceasefire, calls for Palestinian state
Delegates line up at the mic to speak in favor of the resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and support for a Palestinian state. | Cameron Harrison / People's World

HOUSTON—“The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists can play, and has played, an important role in the anti-apartheid struggles,” trade union organizer Ahmad Gaied, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and Region 1 delegate, told People’s World at the 53rd International Convention of CBTU in Houston.

CBTU delegates on stage after the ceasefire resolution passes. | Cameron Harrison / People’s World

The convention passed a resolution, “Stop the War!”, that calls for an immediate ceasefire, the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, an embargo on arms sales, and security assistance to Israel should their actions be found to be in violation of U.S. law, a release of all hostages, as well as affirming the right to Palestinian self-determination and a sovereign Palestinian state.

Additionally, the CBTU tasks itself with building unity between labor and other pro-peace organizations to strengthen the Palestine solidarity movement to achieve an end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“We celebrate the legacies of Bill Lucy and Nelson Mandela” for fighting against apartheid South Africa. “Now, South Africa has brought a charge of genocide against Israel to the International Criminal Court” for their mass slaughter of more than 35,000 Palestinians, the majority of which are women and children, Gaied told People’s World. “We need to continue to come together as workers and union members and think about the bigger picture when fighting for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire” in occupied Palestine.

Cassandra Julal, a young worker representative from the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 343 and Region 1 delegate, herself Trinidadian-Palestinian, spoke with People’s World and mentioned how she has been active in her local union in support of the divestment encampments led by young college students in Toronto.

“The OFL held our convention last November. During that convention, we brought a motion to the floor from COPE Local 343 to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. It passed and since then, we’ve had the support of the labor federation to continue engaging in the ceasefire and divestment movement, as well as supporting our young students and workers during the encampments,” Julal told People’s World.

“Over the last seven months, the world has witnessed and participated in a genocide, made possible by relentless imperialist powers we know all too well. Historically, the fight for Black liberation and the Palestinian struggle have always been tied together,” she said. “Leaders and activists like Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X embraced and pointed to the Palestinian cause when confronting their own systems of oppression.”

The CBTU, being the largest Black labor organization in the U.S. and Canada, plays a special role in the struggle for workers’ rights, democracy, and peace internationally. “CBTU is essential to put the word out, provide the tools and guidance, and build unity” among the working class “to fight for systemic change,” said Julal. “The CBTU can pave the way to provide us the necessary information to bring back to our locals and workplaces and continue this just struggle,” she said.

“From Palestine to North America, these crimes against humanity are two threads tightly wound on the same tapestry. We must only take a step back to see how these threads weave into a greater picture. We, the people, need real action and we need it now,” Julal said passionately.

Lisa Skeete, a CBTU Region 1 delegate, told People’s World that it’s “important for labor to stand up for workers everywhere. We can spend all weekend talking, and rightfully so, about workers’ rights and democracy” in the U.S. and Canada, “but we need to also recognize that there are workers in Palestine fighting for the same things. We need international solidarity.” The fight for workers in one country is inseparable from the workers in other countries.

Delegates line up at the mic to speak on the resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and support for a Palestinian state. | Cameron Harrison / People’s World

Another resolution, also brought by CBTU Region 1, seeks to fight against the political and racist attacks on the movement for a free Palestine happening in Canada. Titled the “Support of Cultural and Religious Clothing Diversity in All Public Spaces” resolution, these trade unionists are seeking support from CBTU to combat the ongoing repression of the solidarity movement.

“The Ontario ban on keffiyehs, which the OFL has mobilized to oppose, is a racist tactic” that seeks to divide the working class, stoke demoralization, and “promote false narratives about the Palestinian people,” Julal told People’s World. Since April, no one has been allowed to wear the traditional Palestinian garment within the walls of the provincial parliament.

CBTU Region 1 said the ban represents a “restriction on the cultural expression and diversity, contradicting the principles of civil liberties, human rights, and solidarity in the labor movement,” that the U.S. and Canada purportedly honor and pride themselves on. It is linked with the fight against racism in the U.S., where Black people are discriminated against for certain hairstyles and ways of dress.

Pointing to the economic effects of the U.S. and Canada’s support for Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, Julal and Gaied told People’s World that “workers are struggling over basic necessities like the cost of living, housing, education, healthcare,” yet the governments spend billions of dollars supporting an apartheid regime hellbent on slaughtering the Palestinian people. Organizations such as the U.S. Peace Council, the Communist Party USA, and others are calling to “Move the Money” from the Pentagon budget to meet human needs.

“They say it’s not a bread and butter issue. But it is. It’s our tax dollars going to fund a genocide that are better spent on uplifting the working people. It’s also a literal bread-and-butter issue for the workers in Palestine. They are being starved,” they told People’s World.

“We need to mobilize the working class—Black, Arab, Latino, Asian, white—we need to unite internationally and struggle for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, an end of military and economic aid to Israel, an end to the occupation and the right of Palestinians to return, as well as the right of Palestine to be a sovereign state.”


Cameron Harrison
Cameron Harrison

Cameron Harrison is a Labor Education Coordinator for the People Before Profits Education Fund. Based in Detroit, he was a grocery worker and a proud member of UFCW Local 876, where he was a shop steward. He writes about the labor and people’s movements and is a die-hard Detroit Lions fan.

Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.