Rank-and-File Union Members Back Campaign to Ditch Biden Over Gaza

A campaign by anti-war voters in Wisconsin to abandon President Joe Biden during the Democratic primary has found surprising support among rank-and-file trade unionists and a statewide coalition of low-wage workers and immigrants. The Listen to Wisconsin campaign, inspired by a similar effort in Michigan, aims to reject Biden over his military support for Israel during the ongoing conflict in Gaza, exposing a divide within the labor movement.

Grassroots Support for the Uninstructed Campaign

Grassroots groups like Wisconsin Labor for Palestine have allied with the Uninstructed campaign, organizing rallies and phone banking to encourage voters to vote “uninstructed” in the primary. Union members have drafted resolutions calling for a ceasefire and action by the Biden administration to pressure Israel to end the war and lift its siege on Gaza.

The campaign has also gained support from immigrant and low-wage worker networks, with groups like Voces de la Frontera Action promoting the campaign as a way to voice disapproval of Biden’s rightward shift on immigration. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the executive director of Voces de la Frontera, stated, “We should not be giving all of this money to this genocidal war,” emphasizing the importance of the Listen to Wisconsin campaign for Latino voters.

Organizers have been working tirelessly on shoestring budgets, making thousands of phone calls and knocking on doors to reach potential supporters. The campaign’s rapid growth and grassroots support highlight the growing dissatisfaction among some voters with the president’s handling of the conflict in Gaza.

Divide Within the Labor Movement

The campaign has exposed a divide within the labor movement, with many rank-and-file members vocally opposing the war and turning to their unions for political action, while union leaders in the AFL-CIO have largely refrained from taking a strong stance. The AFL-CIO released a statement condemning the massacre of civilians and voicing concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire or reduced military assistance to Israel.

Some local unions, such as the South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin, have passed resolutions calling for a ceasefire and urging the AFL-CIO to push for a suspension of military aid to Israel. However, most major US unions have refrained from endorsing the protest vote, underscoring the split within the labor movement over the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Jacob Flom, the president of the union representing workers at the Milwaukee Public Museum and a vocal opponent of Israel’s war in Gaza, stated that the Wisconsin Labor for Palestine coalition aims to push Wisconsin’s unions to take a stronger stand in defense of Palestinian workers, emphasizing the obligation of trade unionists to stand in solidarity with them.

Impact on the Upcoming Election

The Uninstructed campaign’s goal is to secure 20,682 “uninstructed” votes in Wisconsin, the same margin by which Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state in the 2020 presidential election. Similar campaigns are underway in Hawaii, Michigan, and Minnesota, potentially impacting the close race between Biden and Trump in the upcoming November election.

As famine looms in Gaza and pressure for a truce mounts at home and abroad, the Biden administration’s stance on the conflict has come under scrutiny. The president’s campaign spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, stated that Biden “shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East,” and is “working tirelessly to that end.”

Organizers are gearing up for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this August, where they plan to demand that Biden call for a permanent ceasefire and stop military aid to Israel. Abbas Alawieh, a top official for the national uncommitted campaign, emphasized that while the White House has changed its rhetoric on the war, it is still failing to demonstrate a meaningful policy shift when it comes to weapons and funding.

The Growing Significance of Grassroots Movements

While some analysts believe the uncommitted movement’s impact will be minimal, its rapid growth and grassroots support highlight the growing dissatisfaction among some voters with the president’s handling of the conflict in Gaza. The campaign’s success in mobilizing rank-and-file union members and low-wage workers demonstrates the potential for grassroots movements to influence national politics, even in the face of opposition from traditional labor leaders.

The Listen to Wisconsin campaign, along with similar efforts in other states, has managed to bring attention to the divide within the labor movement and the broader public sentiment regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the 2024 election approaches, these grassroots movements may play an increasingly significant role in shaping the political landscape and influencing the positions of major candidates on critical issues.

The success of the Uninstructed campaign in Wisconsin and other states will likely depend on its ability to continue mobilizing supporters and expanding its reach in the months leading up to the Democratic National Convention and the general election. Regardless of the outcome, the campaign has already demonstrated the power of grassroots organizing and the potential for rank-and-file union members and marginalized communities to challenge the status quo and demand change.