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[SUBSTACK ARCHIVE] #4: What are America's unions saying about Gaza?

If you hear crickets, you're not imagining things.

It’s been 41 days since the most recent flare up of hostilities between Israel and Hamas began. As of this writing, at least 11,470 Palestinians1 and approximately 1,200 Israelis have been killed, according to reporting from Al Jazeera. Within the Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands more have been displaced as the Israeli military lays siege to the area’s homes, hospitals and houses of worship.

There have been protests calling for a ceasefire and denouncements on every continent except Antarctica. Trade union members across Europe have blocked arms shipments to Israel, in one case literally blockading a weapons factory in the United Kingdom.

I was curious to know how American unions were reacting after reading about the AFL-CIO’s quashing of a ceasefire resolution from one of its labor councils in Washington State. So I went on a fishing expedition.

My own union, the Writers Guild of America East, sent a statement via email to members on October 23 explaining its silence on the matter. The Writers Guild of America West issued a similar statement, which was published by Deadline on October 24. Both unions essentially said they’re sticking to matters relevant to their industry, which strikes me as antithetical to the concept of solidarity, but I digress.

Dear members, We hope you are holding up in these difficult times. A number of you have reached out to us in recent weeks about whether or not the WGA East would make a public statement about Israel and Gaza. We want to explain why we have not. A little over a year ago, the WGA East went through a referendum to find a path forward as a Guild that was now 40% journalists. In doing so, we in leadership agreed to move away from public statements that did not directly involve our Guild, our industries or the labor movement. Such statements hindered journalist members’ work, and divided rather than united us. Since the referendum, we have made two such statements, both about the protection of reporters. We realize this will strike some of you as inadequate. We also realize that our own personal sentiments about the atrocities in Israel committed by Hamas on October 7 and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza will not suffice. Representing a diversity of workers means our union is strong enough to hold many different views. However, we want to be clear: there is no place in this Guild — none at all — for antisemitism or Islamophobia. Thank you for listening. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, President; Erica Saleh, Vice President, Film/TV/Streaming; Sara David, Vice President, Online Media; Kathy McGee, Vice President, Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News; Chris Kyle, Secretary-Treasurer
WGAE email to membership sent on October 23.
[…] we in leadership agreed to move away from public statements that did not directly involve our Guild, our industries or the labor movement.

— Writers Guild of America East

In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks, we did not issue a public statement, not because we were not horrified by the atrocities, but because it felt outside the purview of a U.S. labor union representing writers to comment on it.

— Writers Guild of America West

Meanwhile, two other entertainment business unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, didn’t hesitate to throw their support behind Israel. Both released statements in mid-October that condemned the Hamas attacks without mentioning Palestinians at all.

In my search for various unions’ statements, I found that some of the largest and most well-known ones have been conspicuously quiet on the matter. Of the dozens of unions I looked at, 34 of them either didn’t have a statement publicly available2 or didn’t respond to my request for comment last week.


  • Actors’ Equity
  • Alphabet Workers Union, but they protested Israel as recently as this summer
  • Amalgamated Transit Union
  • Amazon Labor Union, but they protested Israel as recently as this summer
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • Communications Workers of America
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
  • International Association of Fire Fighters
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • International Longshoremen’s Association
  • International Longshore and Warehouse Union
  • Laborers’ International Union of North America
  • MLB Players Association
  • NBA Players Association
  • NFL Players Association
  • NWSL Players Association
  • National Air Traffic Controllers Association
  • National Association of Letter Carriers
  • National Nurses United
  • National Postal Mail Handlers Union
  • Office and Professional Employees International Union
  • Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
  • Transport Workers Union of America
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices
  • United Auto Workers
  • United Food and Commercial Workers
  • United Farm Workers
  • United Mine Workers of America
  • United Steelworkers
  • United Teachers Los Angeles
  • WNBA Players Association

Of the unions that issued a public statement that I was able to access, I found those statements tended to fall into at least one of five categories:

  • Pro-Israel
  • Blanket condemnations of violence
  • Calls for a ceasefire
  • Pro-Palestine
  • Avoidance/”We’re staying out of it”

I sorted all of the statements into those categories, with footnotes for statements that may fit into more than one.






  • NewsGuild-CWA4

  • Writers Guild of America East (see above)

  • Writers Guild of America West (see above)

While the silence of many of these unions isn’t shocking per se, it is nonetheless revolting to me. Demonstrating solidarity has never been easier in our digital-first world. And yet! Here we are, in that same world, where the AFL-CIO attempted to use its power to suppress such demonstrations among its own membership. Again: not shocking, just gross.

I don’t have a neat ending for this. The silence of so much of America’s organized labor movement grows louder with every passing day. It’s almost deafening at this point. And I can’t do much beyond contort my face into various expressions of disgust and wonder, “WTF are y’all doing?”

In solidarity,

Aria ✊🏽

  1. Approximately 4,710 Palestinian deaths (41% of the total) were children.

  2. For the purposes of this piece, I define “publicly available” as a statement that can be accessed through the organization’s website, whether by using the search function or visiting the newsroom/press sections of the site. I also checked their Instagram accounts in case some of them decided not to issue a formal press release. The demise of Twitter (I refuse to call it by that other name) has made it so that people without Twitter accounts can’t access most tweets, even if they’re public. So if any of these unions made a statement through Twitter, let me know and I’ll correct the record.

  3. On November 3, the AFT issued another statement in which they reemphasized their defense of Israel while also calling for a “humanitarian pause.”

  4. I’m sure the NewsGuild would disagree with my characterization of their stance, as is their right. But when you issue a statement about an ongoing war and you go to such lengths to surgically carve out members of your own profession as though they’re an exceptional class of victim, I’m not sure what else I could call that.