Just weeks after Kooper Caraway’s resignation from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) due to a video posted on X (previously Twitter), where he praised individuals connected to the heinous attack on Israel just two days after the Oct. 7 assault, the former union boss has returned to the spotlight. Caraway is encouraging unions at the local level to call for the opposition of any union involvement in military aid to Israel.
In a statement provided to the socialist magazine, In These Times, Caraway urges local labor bodies to “act locally in any way they can” to support Palestine. His call comes in response to a demand made by Palestinian trade unions, urging organized labor to unite in opposition to any involvement in the manufacturing or transportation of weapons destined for Israel.
The demand also includes a call for trade unions to pass resolutions within their respective organizations, urging them to take action against companies complicit in what they describe as “Israel’s brutal and illegal siege” particularly those with contracts linked to their unions.
Additionally, the Palestinian unions are calling on their counterparts to apply pressure on governments to stop all military trade with Israel, specifically highlighting funding provided by the United States government.
One group out of Washington was way too eager to comply. The Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council (TLM-CLC), representing unions in the Seattle area, swiftly passed a unanimous resolution opposing “any union involvement in the production or transportation of weapons destined for Israel.” The resolution also called for their parent union, the AFL-CIO, to publicly endorse an immediate ceasefire and equal rights for both Palestinians and Israelis.
However, the AFL-CIO, representing 12 million active and retired workers, expressed discontent with TLM-CLC’s resolution, stating that it exceeded the organization’s official stance. Subsequently, the resolution was promptly removed from their website.
The AFL-CIO’s statement on Oct. 11 condemned Hamas for “unspeakable atrocities” and called for a swift resolution to the ongoing conflict to stop the bloodshed of innocent civilians. The union emphasized the need to promote a “just and long-lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Caraway, who is also a former AFL-CIO President, also said in his statement that, “it is not uncommon for the AFL-CIO to step in and overrule central labor councils when they take actions on national or international issues.”
He also reiterated sentiments similar to those expressed in his controversial video, where he referred to individuals involved in the attacks in Israel as “comrades” and that, “Our enemies are not in Gaza; Our comrades are in Gaza,” by drawing a parallel to past local actions in support of the African National Congress and the South African struggle against apartheid before gaining national labor movement support. He highlighted that such local efforts played a role in building momentum on a national scale.
After Caraway’s resignation from the SEIU, his former employer issued a statement on Oct. 19 in response to his departure. The statement confirmed his immediate resignation and expressed the union’s stance on the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel.
SEIU said they believe “that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve safety, freedom from violence, and the opportunity to thrive” and “our union includes many who have family members, Israeli and Palestinian, who have been impacted by the recent violence. We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia racism and hate in all its forms around the world.”
Although no longer affiliated with a labor union, Caraway has resurfaced, attempting to sow discord within the labor movement. He is urging local labor groups to defy union leadership and resist involvement in aid to Israel. Caraway’s return and the divisive nature of his advocacy raise questions about his intentions within a labor movement that emphasizes unity and solidarity.