NYCLU Defends Union’s ‘Pro-Palestinian’ Speech from U.S. House Committee’s Subpoena

By Kaylynn Chang 

NEW YORK, NY — The New York Civil Liberties Union this week condemned a subpoena by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce concerning the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys’ (ALAA UAW) “pro-Palestinian speech,” alleging the subpoena violates the fundamental right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

According to the NYCLU letter, the ALAA UAW passed a resolution in solidarity with the Palestinian trade unions and other unions calling for Palestinian liberation. The letter urges the U.S. government to stop arming Israel and take action to prevent “ongoing Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide of the Palestinian people.”

The letter also states democracy and free speech is to be “encouraged,” and not stifled by Congress, and the ALAA will continue to “defend the union from demands that threaten union democracy and freedom of speech, including our constitutional right to join the call for a free Palestine.”

Leah Duncan, the ALAA UAW Local 2325 Financial Secretary-Treasurer, stated the congressional subpoena and inquiry will not intimidate the union into “abandoning our core principles, including advancing the interests of working people worldwide, by this blatant attack on organized labor.”

According to the article, the resolution passed by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent by the union, and the ALAA maintains it has “long stood with workers and unions around the world,” and will continue to “stand with the people of Palestine as they face daily slaughter.”

According to Lupe Aguirre, the Senior Staff Attorney at the NYCLU, the “McCarthyite silencing tactic meant to chastise lawyers and legal services workers for their protected political speech and intimidate other unions from speaking out. Union members have the constitutional right to take political stances and express themselves through voting.”

Brandon Mancilla, UAW Region 9A Director, added, “The UAW International’s call for a ceasefire is part of a growing movement for peace within labor,” and ALAA members should be able to speak and move freely without government intervention and control.

However, in November, the article states the union was barred from full membership voting after a lawsuit by four members of the union resulted in an unlawful court order. This order was overturned later and the union passed the resolution by a 2:1 vote, according to the released statement.

Ronald Kuby, who works as special counsel to the President of the ALAA UAW Local 2325, stated, “the resolution passed by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent; something that the House of Representatives cannot even achieve to keep the Government running.”

In the resolution calling for a “Ceasefire in Gaza, an End to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, and Support for Workers’ Political Speech,” the ALAA wrote the organization’s stated strong support for Palestinian freedom and condemnation of Israel’s actions.

Specifically, the organization asked for “Israel and the United States to implement an immediate ceasefire; restore water, electricity, gas, and internet; permit international humanitarian assistance, and retract any evacuation orders in Gaza” and “an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation and blockade of Palestinian land, sea, and air by Israeli military forces.”

At the end of the resolution, the ALAA reaffirms its goal to support “political activism in support of Palestinians and in opposition to the Israeli apartheid regime and occupation.” 

In addition, the ALAA makes it clear it does “support the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland” and “rejects all attempts to intimidate workers for their political speech.”

However, according to the released statement, the ALAA was investigated by U.S. House Rep.  Virginia Foxx shortly after passing the resolution, and she wrote a letter to the ALAA UAW about the voting process and requested more information from the group.

The ALAA rejected this request, and Rep. Foxx followed with a subpoena, the released statement notes. The article also states the NYCLU believes that this action comes from disagreement of pro-Palestinian speech and support, and that the House is overstepping bounds of their authority.

Allyson Belovin, Partner at Levy Ratner, an employment firm working with the ALAA, made a statement saying, “The Committee’s subpoena is not only an attack on the ALAA’s Pro-Palestinian position, but on the fundamental right of unions and working people to engage in collective action to challenge discrimination, marginalization, and oppression.”

Going forward, the ALAA and its counsel said they will only respond with already publicly available documents to the subpoena, the released statement asserts.

The NYCLU said it intends to speak out on government involvement when it comes to targeting political speech, free speech rights, and towards upholding the constitutional protections afforded to all Americans, regardless of their viewpoints or affiliations.

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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