Workers’ Rights & Unions – A Natural in Israel
After the Israel government recently adopted its first budget in three years, not hard to understand the collective sigh of relief. To some, also not surprising that the re-emergence of this symbol of stability is being accompanied by a rash of labor disputes.
The most prominent of these – particularly in view of the ongoing period of crisis – appears to be an extended protest, just resolved, by the medical interns’ organization over the length of their shifts. Another recent labor dispute, by daycare workers, was recently settled. A flare-up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also drawn recent attention.
At the heart of this activity is Israel’s broad and long-held belief that workers have rights widely accepted and anchored in law – and that these must be protected.
We’ve already written extensively in this blog about government officials who act as internal – and external – whistle blowers to secure these rights; we’ve also referenced civil society bodies performing a similar function. But especially when it comes to workers’ rights in the country, no examination would even scratch the surface without mentioning the legendary “Histadrut,” the General Federation of Labor in Israel.
Established back in 1920 – 28 years before the State’s founding – the country’s oldest and largest umbrella labor organization today represents the majority of trade unionists, promoting equality and reducing gaps.
A cursory glance at recent media headlines provides a fairly good idea of the Histadrut’s wide-ranging activities. The organization’s head has been recently quoted as attesting to its involvement in formulation of the new budget, and has also predicted that a new minimum wage monthly salary is imminent. The organization has encouraged vaccinations and measures to fight the pandemic, while at the same time expressing opposition to any legislation that would penalize those who decide not to receive the pandemic vaccine.
The parallels between the Histadrut and its counterparts around the world are easy to identify. Indeed, a senior organization official articulated that similarity quite well in a recent “Jerusalem Post” op-ed:
“On Labor Day, President Joe Biden announced, ‘When unions win, workers across the board win.’ Although Biden outlined the achievements of the US labor movement over history, he could’ve well been drawing the same picture about the Histadrut, The General Federation of Labor in Israel.”
That sounds just about right to us. Israel is lucky to have such robust activity – inside and outside government – to protect workers’ rights, a pillar of reducing inequality (SDG 10).