Eric Lee of TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) reports:
By all accounts it was an extraordinary scene on the seventh floor of the Histadrut headquarters in Tel-Aviv…
Hundreds of Chinese construction workers turned up to fill in their forms and join the Israeli union.
Though the forms were in Hebrew, they were given explanatory pages in Chinese.
As one of the more veteran workers put it (speaking with a smattering of Hebrew), “We are here to get strength.”
The construction section of the Histadrut launched a big campaign to organise guest workers and Palestinian workers in their industry last year – and has won an important new collective agreement to protect ALL construction workers in Israel.
The mass sign-up follows the decision several months ago by the Histadrut to begin organizing foreign workers in Israel.
In China, workers are not permitted to join free and independent unions. The unions that exist there are state-controlled and exist solely to ensure the smooth running of the economy.
The Israeli unions, on the other hand, are independent and frequently clash with both government and employers.
As in many other countries, foreign workers in Israel are all too frequently mistreated, underpaid and exploited. But:
The Histadrut’s move to organize these Chinese workers and potentially many others stands in sharp contrast to unions in some countries which campaign for the expulsion of foreign workers.
According to a recent post at Socialist Unity, things are just fine for Chinese workers without any pesky independent unions. But now that the guest workers in Israel are getting a taste of free trade unionism, will they try to put it into practice when they return to China?
And if they do, will that be something else to blame on the Zionists?