“If they are doing it in Egypt we can do it here!”

Hundreds of workers organized by the Workers Advice Center (WAC) marched Saturday (April 30) in Tel Aviv to call for equality, social justice and solidarity with the popular uprisings in the Arab world. Truck drivers, college lecturers, social workers, agricultural laborers, quarry workers, waiters, students and activists – all marched to mark International Workers Day for the sixth successive year.

Hundreds join WAC’s International Workers Day March

Hundreds of workers organized by the Workers Advice Center (WAC) marched Saturday (April 30) in Tel Aviv to call for equality, social justice and solidarity with the popular uprisings in the Arab world. Truck drivers, college lecturers, social workers, agricultural laborers, quarry workers, waiters, students and activists – all marched to mark International Workers Day for the sixth successive year.

The march began on Rothschild Boulevard and ended in Meir Park on King George Street, where an assembly was held, led by WAC’s Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka.

Asma began with a surprising greeting to all those present from the textile workers of el-Mahalla el-Kubra in Egypt. The words of greeting were sent by Hamdi Hussein, a member of the democratic union of el-Mahala workers: “The first of May, 2011, has a new flavor, a sweet flavor of freedom, of victory in the downfall of the dictator, a flavor that entices us to continue to struggle and fulfill the rest of the demands for which the uprising began – the most important being social justice for the entire Egyptian people. Please accept my greetings and the greetings of the Egyptian Communist Party to all the workers of Palestine and the members of WAC.”

“WAC is celebrating this 1st of May with a surge of activity and organizing” said Assaf Adiv, WAC’s secretary-general. “If the Egyptian people have risen up after 30 years of dictatorship, we here in Israel are still stuck with an occupation of over 40 years. Beyond this crime we confront Israel’s social crimes. To be a worker in Israel today is to lack security. For too long, people have been under the illusion that just by merit you can succeed. Capitalism, we were also told, is good for everyone, but the enormous gaps in Israeli society show a different story. WAC is the meeting place for those who believe that change can be achieved. If they are doing it in Egypt, we can do it here!”

Yossi Mar Haim, a re-known musician representing the teachers of Musrara College of Arts, told those present about the signing of a collective agreement with the college management, which led to a salary raise and tenure. Salit Quarry workers’ committee member Mohammed Fuqara spoke about the organizing of Palestinian workers at the quarry and the collective agreement which is to be signed soon. Anat Barel, representing the teachers at the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum, said the workers had tried to unionize in the past, but only when they unionized with WAC had they felt hope in their struggle for tenure and fair employment terms. Michal Harel spoke about the tough employment conditions for waiters in Tel Aviv, the erosion of the status of workers in Israel, and the importance of unionization as a path to social change and awareness. Wafa Tiara was uploaded by dozens of agriculture workers when she spoke about their struggle for employment.

Of particular note was the speech of Sarit Tzarfati, one of the leaders of the recent social workers’ struggle. “The Histadrut is not a democratic organization,” she said. “For this reason, our strike was not successful. The Histadrut demanded only what the Finance Ministry was willing to give. When the workers refused the agreement, it was forced upon them.” Tzarfait also called for the democratization of the unions and cooperation between unions like WAC, Koach La-Ovdim and others.

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About Eran Krivine