LaborStart of Canada sponsored the visit of Roni Ben Efrat, International Coordinator of the newly recognized union WAC-MA’AN, from May 15-20, 2011. WAC-MAAN is active among Jews and Arabs in Israel as well as East Jerusalem. Ben Efrat’s aim was to create new links with major unions in Canada.
WAC-MA’AN was established in the mid 90’s as a Labor Center to support the Arab unemployed, helping them get jobs within a newly neo-liberal, chaotic labor market. Gradually, as neo-liberal policies hit Jewish workers too, WAC turned into a union, organizing and representing workers.
Derek Blackadder linked Ben Efrat to meetings with trade union figures such as Annie Labaj of CAW-TCA, Marion Pollack of CUPW-STTP (the Postal Workers Union, currently involved in a labor dispute), Ronda Spencer (head of International Relations in CUPE, the union of the public-sector workers, which is the biggest union in Canada), and Naveen Metha of the UFCW (who told Ben Efrat about the union’s remarkable attempt to organize migrant workers).
Ben Efrat also had a round-table discussion with activists from Labor for Palestine and the Socialist Project. Because WAC has strong links with Sindyanna of Galilee, a Fair Trade marketing organization in Israel, Ben Efrat also met with Robert Massoud, Director of Zatun, and with Hugues Tshibemba, Director of International Relations of Fairtrade Canada, also known as TransFair.
Ben Efrat told LaborStart: “I am bringing my colleagues at WAC a deep message of solidarity from Canadian unions, and I hope that I was able to convey to them that the winds of change in the Middle East have not skipped Israel, where WAC-MAAN is building a union that, for the first time in our country, represents all workers, Jews and Arabs, as equals. We are reaching out to the Egyptians and the Palestinians with a message of solidarity. We support their struggle for freedom, and we call for peace based on the 1967 borders.