Sunday, May 20th, 2012
One of the lies told by the proponents of boycotting Israel’s national trade union center is that their campaign is on an unstoppable roll. Unions everywhere, they say, are refusing to have anything to do with “racist, Zionist, colonial, apartheid” Histadrut.
But last week, the International Union of Food workers, a global union federation of nearly 400 trade unions in 120 countries, representing some 20 million food and agriculture workers around the globe, held its 26th congress in Geneva — and the Histadrut was a welcome, and active, participant.
The Histadrut’s international affairs director, Avital Shapira-Shabirow, addressed the congress twice. In the photo above you can see Avital speaking, with her image projected on the large screen above the stage.
First, she spoke during the opening plenary on the subject of precarious work – a central concern of unions all over the world. Avital told delegates about the Histadrut’s fight against precarious work in Israel. When she mentioned that Israeli workers had managed to secure a contract for the very first time with a subsidiary of the multinational catering giant Sodexo, she was interrupted by applause. You can hear part of her speech – including the outburst of applause – on the 5 minute report on the day’s events at Radio Labour – click here to listen.
On the final day, Avital spoke following the speeches by trade union leaders from the newly independent unions in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Algeria and Palestine. The Palestinian union of agricultural workers had just been admitted to membership in the IUF – the first Palestinian union to do so. Avital warmly welcomed the Palestinians into the IUF and expressed the desire of the Histadrut to strengthen its relationship with the Palestinian labour movement. This speech as well was warmly received by delegates.
In the final session of the congress, delegates elected a new Executive Committee to run the organisation for the next five years; among those selected was a leader of the Histadrut’s food workers union.
Delegates ended the Congress with a singing of the “Internationale” in all their respective languages. The IUF prepared a booklet with the texts — and kindly included Hebrew for the Israeli delegation. Unfortunately, the text was not proofread by a Hebrew speaker, and appears incorrectly from left-to-right. The correct text can be found here.