On November 2, Will Lehman, the Mack Trucks worker who ran as the rank-and-file socialist candidate for president of the UAW, issued a video statement demanding the immediate cessation of production for equipment and munitions used by the Israeli military. At the time of writing, his statement has been viewed over a hundred thousand times, particularly on TikTok where it was widely shared.
In his statement, Lehman endorsed the call of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions asking workers around the world to “refuse to build weapons destined for Israel … refuse to transport weapons to Israel … [to] take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege.”
Lehman noted, however, that the leadership of the UAW “has ignored the appeal by the Palestinian trade unions,” with UAW President Shawn Fain—the backed candidate of the DSA—inviting President Joe Biden to Michigan “to posture as a friend of working people.” At the time of writing, the UAW leadership remains silent on the call of the Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions to shut down the production of bombs, missiles, and other equipment for war.
More than 1,100 General Dynamics workers in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania were set to strike on October 22 but the UAW announced a last-minute deal to prevent a walkout at the giant defense contractor, which supplies weapons to Israel.
The American weapons being used by the IDF to destroy Gaza
Over ten thousand Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In just one month of bombing, the IDF has killed 4,000 children. Responding to the slaughter which has been made possible by Biden and the imperialist powers in Europe, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres described Gaza as a “graveyard for children” on Monday.
The vast majority have been killed inside their apartments, tents, or place of shelter, as bombs fired by Israeli warplanes either kill them on impact or collapse the infrastructure around them, in which case they are crushed to death or suffocate beneath the rubble. Civilians hear the whistling of the bombs for several seconds before the bombs land on their homes and explode. On-the-ground footage from independent journalists, such as Motaz Azaiza (Instagram) and Eye on Palestine (Instagram), shows Palestinian civilians desperately trying to free their relatives and loved-ones from the rubble every day—hoping for signs of life beneath the concrete.
The IDF has one of the more advanced militaries on the planet—funded, almost exclusively, by billions of American tax-dollars. The US has spent over $130 billion on supplying Israel with weapons since the country’s founding in 1948.
The IDF fires bombs on Gaza from a fleet of American made war planes. Cross-referencing information from Reuters, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Al Jazeera suggests this fleet consists of:
- 40 F-35 advanced Lockheed Martin stealth warplanes (Reuters reports that a total of 75 have been ordered)
- 196 F-16 multi-purpose planes made by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin
- 83 F-15 fighters designed and produced by McDonnell Douglas (which is now Boeing)
These warplanes are equipped with bombs, missiles, and guidance kits largely manufactured in the United States.
An Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon participates in an agile combat employment training exercise at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 8, 2022.
According to Al Jazeera, almost all of the bombs used are from the MK80 class of aerial munitions. MK80’s date back to the Vietnam war and come in different sizes from 120kg (265 lb) to 1,000 kgs (2,2024lb). As of the beginning of November, Israel had dropped 25,000 tons of ammunition—about double the power of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in World War II.
These bombs, however, have several component parts integral to their use. Most important is the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) which is an add-on kit that takes an MK80-class bomb, or another ‘dumb’ bomb, and gives it the ability to use GPS guidance. The JDAM kit is essential to firing US-made bombs in modern warfare.
A Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kit fixed to a bomb on display at the Navy League's 2003 Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
All of the world’s JDAMS are made by Boeing in a single factory in St. Louis, Missouri. Almost all of the Israel’s MK80 bombs are made by General Dynamics in Garland, Texas. These two sprawling facilities are vital nexuses of US imperialism and form apart of the almost “almost daily” flow of weapons and equipment from the Pentagon to Israel.
There are hundreds of other factories, mines, and ports that help to produce, source, or distribute material for the tanks, fighter jets, ammunition, and other devices used by the IDF to carry out its genocide in Gaza. Israel itself has one of the largest defense industries on the planet, and domestically produces the Merkava 4—its main battle tank.
While the US “defense” industry, as a whole, has experienced dwindling union membership since the 1980s, many of the factories producing weapons are organized under the United Auto Workers (UAW) or the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).
“Cease production of all equipment intended for the Israeli military”
The working class must be mobilized to oppose imperialist war. The Palestinian General Federations of Trade Unions called on workers to “cease production of all equipment intended for the Israeli military.” UAW-president candidate Will Lehman explained:
When production of munitions and military equipment for Israel is stopped, all workers in the affected factories must be paid 100 percent of their salaries by the corporations who have profited from contracts with the perpetrators of war crimes. A coordinated education campaign must be initiated to inform the entire UAW membership about the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and resolutions in support of the appeal by our brothers and sisters in Palestine must be passed in every local.
Significant protests have targeted the weapons pipeline coming out of the United States.
- On Thursday, November 2, 60 protesters blocked the entrance to Raytheon in Tucson, November, demanding the company end its extensive sales to the IDF.
- On Friday, November 3, hundreds of protesters and several rank-and-file members of the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU) stalled the military vessel Cape Orlando in Oakland, California, as it headed to Israel with military supplies.
- On Monday, November 6, hundreds more protesters tried to block Cape Orlando in Tacoma, Washington. At least three dock workers refused to handle the cargo.
- Also on Monday, 75 young protesters blocked entrances to the Boeing plant outside of St. Louis, Missouri, which builds JDAMS, delaying the start of the shift by four hours, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
- Several protests have occurred at Elbit Systems, one of the largest Israeli defense companies. This includes a protest of over 200 people at Elbit’s US headquarters in Boston.
Internationally, workers have also intervened in an effort to stop the war:
- Last week Belgian airport unions called on workers to not handle arms shipments to Israel.
- This week, dockworkers in Barcelona, Spain announced they would refuse to handle any military material as the war raged.
Every effort should be made to appeal to workers in these industries to develop their own rank-and-file committees to discuss the war and its direct relationship to the escalating attack on the working class.
Manufacturing workers in the US have been crushed under years of spiraling inflation, deteriorating conditions on the shopfloor, anemic pay increases, and the erosion of health and pension benefits. Meanwhile, trillions go to war!
While the major American trade unions, including the ILWU and UAW, have issued calls to not handle goods headed towards Russia—following their Democratic Party keepers—hypocritically, none of them have issued statements condemning the slaughter in Gaza, nor demanded the cessation of production and distribution of goods headed to Israel.
Below the World Socialist Website reports on the key nodes of production for American-made armaments being used in Israel’s war against Gaza, and for US imperialism more broadly.
Garland, Texas—General Dynamics
What it produces: all-purpose MK-80 series bombs, the most widely used air to surface bomb.