Shawn Fain Calling for a Cease-Fire: “As Union Members, We Must Fight for All Workers”

Fresh off a historic strike, the UAW became one of the largest unions in the US to support a cease-fire in Gaza. In remarks last month, republished here, President Shawn Fain explains that labor must fight for “peace and social justice for all of humanity.”

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, calls for a cease-fire in Gaza outside of the US Capitol on December 14, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

This past summer and fall, unions leveraged their power to win better contracts for US workers across industries. Now, an increasing number of unions are leveraging that same power to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and call for more international solidarity with Palestinian people.

United Auto Workers (UAW) president Shawn Fain called for a cease-fire during a press conference in Washington, DC, on Thursday, December 14, alongside Democratic lawmakers and representatives from other unions, such as the American Postal Workers Union and United Electrical workers. The event was organized by Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO), who in October introduced the cease-fire resolution urging President Joe Biden to support an immediate end to the violence and send aid to Palestine. More than twenty thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Fain, elected last March, has emerged as one of labor’s most prominent voices after leading some 145,000 autoworkers on a six-week strike this fall to secure a historic contract. When the UAW announced its support of a cease-fire on December 1, it became one of the largest unions to do so.

In his comments, printed below, Fain calls on other members of the labor community to join the growing number of organizations calling for peace.

The following speech has been edited for clarity.

Thank you for having me and our UAW members represented here today.

As trade unionists, and as a labor movement, it’s up to us to stand up and fight for the best of what humanity is and can be.

The UAW is proud to stand here with our fellow union family and Congresswomen Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib — who are a couple of the most badass leaders we have in Congress — calling for peace, calling for a cease-fire.

It is a product of our belief in humanity that innocent civilians must be protected. We cannot bomb our way to peace.

The only path forward to build peace and social justice is a cease-fire. As the UAW, we take pride in our history of standing up for justice at home and around the world.

Throughout our history, we are a union that has always spoken out for civil rights and human rights, time and time again.

That said, I want to be clear, what we’re calling for today — a cease-fire — is what the global community is standing together for.

At the United Nations, it’s what the vast majority of nations have called for! It’s what the majority of citizens in our country want.

The world has seen enough slaughter and devastation. Peace is the only path forward.

While we call for a cease-fire, we also condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab racism. All of these are growing in our nation at this moment and must be stopped.

We know unions are the best bridge toward fighting all forms of hatred and phobias: racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and more. As union members, we know we must fight for all workers and people suffering around the world.

That means we must restore people’s basic rights and allow water, fuel, food, and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

We must also call for the release of all hostages.

I thank our UAW members for speaking out and pushing us to come out in support of a cease-fire. It was the right thing to do. Now, it’s time for the rest of our elected officials to step up and do what it takes to end the violence.

And I call on the rest of the labor movement to join us in the mission for peace and social justice for all of humanity!

Thank you.