The next stage: organizing workers
During the last annual general meeting of its members, the Workers Advice Center decided to concentrate on a new direction: assisting workers to organize in the framework of workers’ committees, and transforming itself into a representative organization. The decision to invest efforts in this field was the main issue presented in the report submitted by WAC’s General Director, Assaf Adiv.
Assaf Adiv, WAC’s General Director
The AGM, the principal forum for determining WAC’s policies for the coming year, was held at the Minshar College of Arts in Tel Aviv on July 18. About 100 members attended. Among them were representatives from WAC’s six branches (located in the north, the “Triangle,” Tel Aviv and East Jerusalem), including both Jewish and Arab workers employed as drivers, excavation workers at archeological sites, college lecturers, construction and agricultural laborers.
During the first part of the AGM, open to the general public, a symposium was held on the issue of empowering weakened workers. Prof. Eran Yashiv (Tel Aviv University), who is researching Arab labor in Israel; Dr. Itzhak Saporta (Tel Aviv University), social activist and editor of Ha’okets website; Sigal Rosen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers; and WAC’s Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, all participated in the panel. The panel was chaired by Nir Nader, coordinator for WAC’s Tel Aviv branch (a summary of the participants’ remarks will be published shortly).
Panel members from right to left: Sigal Rosen, Dr. Yitzhak Saporta, Prop. Eran Yashiv, Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka, Nir Nader
During the second part of the AGM, Adiv clarified the objectives adopted by WAC. He noted the central issue that has occupied the organization for a number of years: the placement of Arab women in agricultural labor, concurrent with opposing the import of Thai workers who suffer from lack of basic workers’ rights. Adiv emphasized that WAC would continue to cooperate with human and workers rights organizations that are struggling against the deportation of migrant laborers. He also condemned the revolving door policy, according to which migrant workers are deported on the pretext that they are “illegal”, only in order to enable manpower agencies and the agricultural lobby to import “fresh meat” that can be easily exploited, leading to higher profits.
Adiv noted WAC’s other fields of activity, including youth training in schools; empowerment courses for working women; cooperation with other NGOs, colleges and workers’ rights activists; developing connections with artists via the annual Bread and Roses exhibition; and organizing a central event to mark International Women’s Day and Labor Day, amongst others.
Adiv spoke about WAC’s new objective in organizing workers. He noted that during the last year, various groups of workers turned to WAC for assistance in organizing at their workplace. This activity, he observed, was integrated into WAC’s general operation, and anchored in an appendix to the organization’s statute which was submitted to the AGM participants. The appendix lays out the connection between workers’ committees and WAC management. The participants voted in favor of WAC’s new focal activity.
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