The new independent union – WAC Maan is our Tahrir Square

After the demonstrations of last summer and also well before, the offices of the Workers Advice Center (WAC-Maan) have been open 365 days a year for meetings with workers from throughout the country. These workers face a harsh and frustrating reality, a reality known in the dialect of Netanyahu and his associates as “Israel’s flexible and dynamic labor market”

WAC Maan – Workers Advice Center’s Annual General Meeting, June 16, 2012

After the demonstrations of last summer and also well before, the offices of the Workers Advice Center (WAC-Maan) have been open 365 days a year for meetings with workers from throughout the country. These workers face a harsh and frustrating reality, a reality known in the dialect of Netanyahu and his associates as “Israel’s flexible and dynamic labor market” – hardworking female agricultural laborers from Arab towns; college teachers working through labor contractors without peripheral benefits; Arab and Jewish truckers, particularly those of Mizrahi or former USSR origin; archeological dig workers from East Jerusalem laboring for the Antiquities Authority; workers of Ethiopian origin in the neglected towns of the south; Palestinian workers who are employed in the Settlements, Jewish and Arab factory workers from Nazareth Illit; and many others. They all feel squeezed and exploited, they all feel the system and the economy are working against them, trampling them underfoot together with their families and future.

What they have in common is greater than what divides them. On Saturday, June 16th, they all gathered for WAC’s 13th annual general meeting that was held at Tel Aviv’s Minshar School of Art. This meeting summarized the organization’s work during the past year and outlined activities planned for the coming year. Representatives of workers organized with WAC attended, including some 70 people representing dozens of workplaces and groups of workers who have joined WAC during the past years.

One of the central issues that were discussed was WAC’s commitment to social change, and its activists’ deep involvement in last year’s social protest movement. We understand the importance of this movement, and seek partners and allies in the struggle for social change and for changing the order of economic priorities. WAC and its Arab and Jewish activists constitute an example of the possibility of genuine partnership between the two peoples. This is one issue we wished to extol in the AGM, and we underline our determination to continue to develop it on the basis of opposition to the neo-liberal rightwing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shaul Mofaz and Ehud Barak – a government hostile to workers, both Jews and Arabs alike.

For three years, WAC has been conducting a unique campaign with truck drivers. Of some 15,000 drivers of heavy goods vehicles in Israel, only a handful are organized in work committees affiliated with the Histadrut. The rest – some 95% of drivers – have no protection and work with no enterprise-level agreement. All, both the unionized and the unorganized, work under the shadow of a harmful collective agreement. This agreement was signed by the Histadrut 20 years ago, and enabled companies to employ truckers without registering hours worked and without payment for overtime. In recent years, WAC has become the address for hundreds of truckers. We have dealt with wage claims and rights infringements, and we labor determinedly to set up work committees in the haulage firms and to change the sector-wide collective agreement in order to put an end to the exploitation of drivers.

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