IWW Union Activists Confront NY Congressman for Supporting ICE and Israeli Apartheid

by Brendan Maslauskas Dunn / Love and Rage

Several members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or “Wobblies” as they are affectionately called, confronted Anthony Brindisi during a town hall meeting he held in Pulaski, NY on July 30 which was set up by the recently elected Democrat of the 22nd Congressional District.

Brindisi narrowly defeated Republican and staunch Trump supporter Claudia Tenney during the 2018 election. He had slowly built a reputation in Utica while he was a NY State Assemblyman of being a strong advocate of unions and was backed by countless unions leading up to the election. He also built a reputation on being a strong supporter of immigrant and refugee justice. Although little in his career as a legislator reflected this, he did attend and speak at a number of rallies in Utica, including those supporting immigrant and refugee justice.

However, since getting elected to Congress, Brindisi has backed a number of policies and voted for legislation that places him firmly in the same camp as Trump. Recently, Brindisi was one of only six Democrats who voted against raising the federal minimum wage to $15. He also voted in favor of the $4.5 billion emergency funding bill to address the crisis at the border. The billions are assisting the continued militarization of the border, human rights violations, ICE and the Border Patrol, as well as concentration camps and the incarceration of children. Brindisi stated that “common sense prevailed” when the bill was passed and he promised to “maintain the values that make this country great.” While Brindisi has otherwise been relatively quiet on the humanitarian crisis at the border, other politicians have been vocal in condemning government abuse. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who opposed the bill, tweeted, “We should not be giving one more dollar to support this President’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people. Kids and families can’t continue to die & be terrorized.”

What eventually mobilized the Utica Wobblies to confront Brindisi was his yes vote for a resolution that supports the continued occupation of Palestine and condemns the BDS movement – a move that many see as a major erosion of free speech. Brindisi was also a part of efforts in the NY State Assembly to criminalize free speech and the BDS campaign which he has called “anti-Semitic.” Brindisi praised the apartheid state of Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” and also supports Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel.

Members of the IWW union called Brindisi out during the packed town hall meeting over his support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, his refusal to stand up more firmly against the abuses of the Trump administration, and his backing of ICE, militarizing the US/Mexico border and concentration camps. 

IWW member Daniel Barefoot of Utica was compelled to confront Brindisi “mainly because he campaigned so hard in Utica and leaned so hard into the diversity and immigrants in the city and even spoke at rallies. Our city was a major reason why he was propelled into power and now everyone was abandoned.”

He and a few other Wobblies spoke up, an act that encouraged others in the crowd to speak out against Brindisi’s support of Israel as well. While they received some support, others in the crowd sneered at them and one person yelled at them to “go back to Utica.”

The Utica IWW also released the following statement:

Utica IWW’s Statement Opposing Congressman Anthony Brindisi

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) stands in solidarity with oppressed populations of the world, regardless of their citizenship status. The actions committed by border patrol and ICE at the U.S-Mexican border are nothing short of inhumane and atrocious. To stand by them is to stand by systematic oppression, racism, and authoritarianism. We believe anybody who stands by ICE or tacitly sides with ICE, while claiming to be appalled by ICE’s actions, is morally repugnant and disgraceful.

This is among the many reasons why members of the IWW in Utica, NY publicly opposes Congressman Anthony Brindisi, who has voted in favor of ICE and President Trump’s border policies. In 2018 while Brindisi ran against “Loud and Proud” Trump supporter Claudia Tenney, many viewed that his campaign was run on the premise that he was firmly against ICE and pro immigrant and refugee justice. He gained huge traction in Utica for what many of his supporters believed were progressive pro-immigrant and pro-worker policies. We can all remember his victory night in Utica and how he went out of his way to congratulate the labor movement for helping him win. No less than a year later, Brindisi has backtracked on most of his progressive campaign promises and has supported some of the worst policies and proposals of the Trump administration. Not only has he supported ICE and its campaign of cruelty at the border but he has also walked hand in hand with some of the worst elements of the American and Israeli Far-Right in his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a democratic pro-Palestinian movement that seeks to build opposition to the Israeli occupation and apartheid. The IWW endorsed the BDS movement and is actively engaged in the movement for Palestinian self-determination. He has also opposed raising the minimum wage to $15.

All of these deeply reactionary polices have made it clear to us that Congressman Brindisi does not represent the interests of the working class or the marginalized and oppressed peoples of this nation. Instead he has firmly sided with the forces of racism and American capitalism. Because of his policies the Utica IWW will oppose representative Brindisi, the same way we opposed those of former Republican representative Claudia Tenney. As far as we are concerned there is little to no substantive difference between these two politicians and their reactionary beliefs and actions.

Solidarity to all working people!

The action joins a chorus of similar actions across the country where activists have targeted Democrats for supporting funding for concentration camps and ICE, backing Israel and Saudi Arabia, and backing other policies of the Trump administration. Barefoot saw this action as part of this “growing consensus” of calling out Democrats as well as the growing immigrant justice movement across Upstate NY and the nation.

“The IWW has a way of not taking the typical channels… We are not going to sit and write letters through proper channels,” Barefoot exclaimed. The Wobblies in Utica are part of a growing statewide network of immigrant justice, anti-fascist and union activists who are organizing against ICE, the institutions that profit off of deportations and the camps, as well as politicians that support ICE and the concentration camps.

When asked what Wobblies had in store for the future, Barefoot said that “the more we keep doing this, the more we’ll see Brindisi squirm. We won’t let up on BDS, Palestine and other struggles.” He paused for a moment, adding, “He is doing a town hall meeting in August.” Time will tell what the IWW and other activists have in store for the rest of the summer.

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