120 Palestinian workers at worksite in Mishor Adumim industrial zone went on strike on 8 Sept. 2019 with demands for reinstatement of dismissed colleagues and the right to join their chosen union.
11 September 2019, WAC-MAAN
Palestinian workers in a West Bank settlement strike for their right to choose WAC-MAAN as their union
The workers demand that Maya Food Industries stop attempts to force them into the “Histadrut Leumit”. The strike comes after a Jerusalem Labor Court on Sept. 5 ordered Maya Foods to annul dismissals and suspensions of worker leaders.
A hundred and twenty production workers at Maya Food Industries in Mishor Adumim [ed. Israeli settlement industrial zone in the occupied West Bank] went on strike on September 8, 2019. Together with the independent union WAC-MAAN (henceforth WAC), the workers announced the strike based on WAC’s formal announcement to the Israeli Labor Ministry, on August 20, of a labor dispute and strike. They demand that the management immediately stop all threats against the unionized workers and their committee, recognize that the workers have chosen WAC, and stop efforts to force upon them the right-wing, Likud-affiliated union “Histadrut Leumit.”
The company employs 220 workers, 120 of whom have submitted membership forms to WAC – a far greater number than the one-third required by law for achieving representative status. However, since a letter sent by WAC on August 14th announcing that it is the representative union in the company, the management has been doing all it can to avoid recognizing WAC, including blatant violations of the right to unionize, as well as dismissals of workers.
In response, WAC turned to the labor court, which on September 5th ordered the reinstatement of five workers who had been dismissed or suspended, including those who had initiated the unionizing drive with WAC. In the decision, Judge Daniel Goldberg referred to the explicit statement of the factory manager, who said in one of the hearings that he wanted to “create democracy here and bring in another workers’ committee” – a statement that is clearly an unlawful intervention in the right of workers to decide on the union of their choice.
The Judge criticized management behaviour, ruling that the firm had acted unlawfully and must stop trying to influence the workers in their choice or to organize a general workers’ assembly about unionizing with WAC.
The workers and WAC demand more than just the reinstatement of the workers. They demand an end to the repeated efforts by several company managers to pressure workers to sign up to the “Histadrut Leumit”, using both promises and threats, thus compelling them to accept representation via an organization they are not familiar with.
The workers who refrained for years from any protest or demand, fearing dismissal, chose WAC in light of its success in unionizing Palestinians in the Mishor Adumim factories.
The successful strike and the participation of a great majority of workers show that unionizing with WAC-Maan is authentic, reflecting the workers’ desire to improve their conditions, after more than 20 years without pay slips, social benefits, overtime, sick leave or vacation leave.
On August 14, WAC informed Maya Food Industries Ltd. that it was now the representative workers’ organization at the plant. In the following days, the firm took various steps, including dismissals and suspensions of those leading the unionizing drive, threats from managers, and attempts to make them join the National Histadrut. On August 28, WAC requested that the Jerusalem Labor Court issue a prohibition order against the suspensions and dismissals, demanding that management recognize WAC as the representative organization. On September 5, the court ordered the reinstatement of the workers affected.
It must be noted that on September 2, the Histadrut Leumit Union announced that it was the representative organization at the plant, and the following day the management said it intended to negotiate with it, thus clearly proving WAC’s point that the management preferred this union.
Dozens of Palestinian workers who have joined WAC in recent days said that they were pressured into signing the membership forms for the Histadrut Leumit by their direct managers. They asked to note on the WAC membership forms that they were annulling their forced membership with the Histadrut.
They and their comrades who initiated the organizing drive went on strike for the first time in the history of the company on Sunday, September 8, emphasizing that they are with WAC. Trusting that WAC will work with them to obtain their rights, the workers are exercising their right to unionize with an organization of their own choosing.
See also Palestinian workers at Maya Foods join WAC-MAAN to fight for their rights, 2 Sept 2019.
12 September 2019, WAC-MAAN
WAC-MAAN and Kav LaOved demand to stop automatic dues payments by Palestinian workers to the Histadrut, instead allowing workers to choose to join WAC-MAAN
In an application to the Israeli Payments Authority (PIBA), the workers’ rights organization Kav LaOved (KLO) and WAC-MAAN (WAC) demanded that Palestinian workers be allowed to unionize as they like. The letter was sent by Adv. Michal Tadjer from KLO and Adv. Aya Bartenstein from WAC on August 13, 2019 to the Head of the Migration Authority, Mr. Shlomo Bar Yosef (PIBA is part of the Migration Authority).
For decades, Palestinians working in Israel have had very limited freedom of association – through the Histadrut Workers’ Federation alone – whose help to these workers in protecting their rights has been almost nil. Union fees were automatically transferred from the salaries of the Palestinian employees to the Histadrut by PIBA, and the workers had no choice in the matter.
As part of the changes that are currently taking place in the employment of Palestinian workers, PIBA has published a new option for employees: to transfer their dues to another organization called the National Workers’ Federation (the Likud-affiliated Histadrut Leumit).
But what about the employees’ right to really choose how they want to organize? In June, a group of ten Palestinian construction workers tried to transfer their dues to WAC instead, but that option did not technically exist for the employer. The latter did indeed ask PIBA to transfer the money to WAC, but PIBA told him that there were only two organizations to choose from: the National Federation (Histadrut Leumit) and the New Histadrut. Neither have given any real assistance to the workers, although they have gladly collected their union dues.
Kav LaOved and WAC-MAAN appealed to PIBA to stop favoring the New Histadrut and Histadrut Leumit; that it respect the right of Palestinian workers to unionize where they choose; and that it to allow dues payments to other labor unions, including WAC-MAAN, which is active on behalf of individual workers in the labor courts, as well as in the struggle for safety in the construction industry.