SEIU, nation’s second largest union, demands immediate ceasefire in Gaza
SEIU, nation's second largest union, demands immediate ceasefire in Gaza. | Emad El Byed/Unsplash

WASHINGTON—The Service Employees have become the latest and largest union to demand a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, citing the enormous suffering the Palestinians suffer.

“Our call for a cease-fire is a call for peace,” Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry declared.

Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU called yesterday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. | Wikipedia (CC)

The statement, added to prior cease fire calls by ever more  individual union locals, National Nurses United, the Auto Workers, the Postal Workers, the United Electrical Workers, the National Writers Union and Auto Workers Region 9A, puts more pressure on the AFL-CIO to side unequivocally with cease-fire advocates.

It also puts more pressure on President Biden to heed rising pro-cease-fire demands from key constituencies vital to the president’s re-election chances, including young voters and Arab-American voters in key swing states, notably Michigan.

And in an informal talk at the UAW’s legislative conference, one official from Region 9A said sentiment among his members—given the choice will be between Biden and his anti-worker predecessor, Republican Donald Trump—is that they’ll vote for Biden, but won’t phone bank or stump the streets for him.

Added Henry: “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. It is time for long-term solutions that will bring safety, peace, democracy, and justice to all in the region,” said Henry, whose union has two million members.

SEIU’s statement particularly criticizes the Israeli military’s overreaction—with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s OK—to the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which killed 1200 people and took more than 200 hostages. Some have been released. SEIU also condemned that attack.

“We condemn the widespread attacks on innocent civilians, including the bombardment of neighborhoods, healthcare facilities, and refugee camps by the Israeli military,” said Henry.

“Months of assaults on Gaza have killed over 20,000 Palestinians, and led to the displacement of more than 85% of the Gazan population. Palestinians face an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis,” lacking food, fuel, water, power and other necessities.”

Some 70 percent of the Palestinian dead are women and children.

Whether Biden will listen is another matter. He’s ignored prior protests of Israeli military reaction, in mass marches in D.C., elsewhere in the U.S. and globally.

Instead, he’s given virtually unconditional support, including extensive military aid, to the right-wing nationalist Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In recent weeks, though, Biden officials have urged Netanyahu to pull back and moderate the virtual “scorched earth” military campaign carried out against Gazans, under the guise of eliminating Hamas’s military wing. Without withholding of U.S. weapons, however, the calls for moderation ring hollow.

Besides the 25,000 deaths, more than 52,000 Palestinians have been injured, 85% of Gaza’s 2.2 million people have become refugees and most of Northern Gaza’s housing has been damaged or destroyed. Israeli jets have also bombed “safe haven” refugee camps in Southern Gaza, along with hospitals.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.