It’s often said (by the anti-union mainstream media) that trade unions look after their own members, but don’t give a damn about the public.
But the reality is that unions are often the only organized force in a country that stands up for the poor.
That’s certainly the case in Israel these days.
Yesterday, the Histadrut made it clear that it will not accept a failure by the government to raise the monthly minimum wage that is scheduled for October.
Unionized workers don’t usually benefit directly from minimum wage increases, as their collective bargaining agreements will typically guarantee them better wages. It’s the unorganized, workers who are not union members, who have the most to gain from a boost to the minimum wage.
Some officials in the Netanyahu government have made noises about the raise not taking place as austerity measures kick in.
But Histadrut leader Ofer Eini says that this is non-negotiable and according to the Globes newspaper, “if the government seeks to harm public sector employees and minimum wage earners, which are clear grounds for declaring a labor dispute by law, the Histadrut will fight, to the point of declaring a general strike.”
In addition, the Histadrut is opposing government plans to increase the value added tax (VAT) which is essentially a tax on the poor, as it is universally applied. (The same tax rate applies to the purchase of a container milk as it does to a luxury car.)
The Histadrut is proposing an alternative VAT tax which is reduced for the essentials that poor families buy and increased for luxury items.
Eini has also called for an increase in taxes on companies.