Monday, November 07, 2011
The Histadrut declares War against Israelis
By Steven Plaut
"Israel's most justified strike ever," gushed the Jewish Palestinians
over at leftwing Haaretz newspaper. It is a fight for social
justice, chimed in the other media airheads. The students from the
tent protests agree.
Israel's Histadrut trade union federation once again proved itself
this past week as deserving of the moniker I have long attached to it:
The Histadrut is Israel's most important organized crime family. If
only for a few hours before a "Labor Court" issued back-to-work orders
The Histadrut regularly shuts down the country, striking against the
Israeli public by closing vital services. For years Israel has lost
enormous amounts of business deals because business people are afraid
to come to Israel. They are not afraid of the terrorists. They are
afraid of the Histadrut shutting down the airport, stranding them,
making them "Prisoners of Zion, as one wag suggested they be called.
The strikes also sabotage the public transit, the banks, and other
services. Histadrut terrorism in the form of anti-public "sanctions"
takes an enormous economic toll every year.
So just what was the Histadrut so upset over THIS TIME? What was the
cause of its decision to cripple the country in a general strike, one
it threatened would go on indefinitely with no time limit?
The Histadrut was upset that so many Israelis were finding work
through private manpower agencies.
What is so bad about that? The second most important goal of the
Histadrut is to price Israeli workers out of the market so that those
workers cannot get any work at all. The first most important goal is
to serve as the economic SWAT team for the rump Labor Party to help
get it into power and replace the Likud.
Let me explain. There are lots of Israelis, mainly low-skilled
Israelis, who find work through "manpower" agencies. The big
attraction for them to work this way is that they get their entire
salary as salary, without being forced to relinquish large chunks of
it in order for the funds to be sidelined into pension funds,
"provident funds," and other "social savings" schemes. Don't the
workers realize that they will someday be old and need a pension? Of
course they do, but they are now in a period of their lives where they
need the cash more. Many "manpower agency" employees are Russian
immigrants, new in the country. The "agencies" also help find work
for their stable of workers and assist in other ways, for a cut.
Employers favor the system because they are not required to grant
permanent "tenure" to the employees after a few months and can hire
and fire when and whom they please. Through much of the Israeli
economy, especially the public sector, it is far more difficult to
fire a janitor than a tenured professor, even if the janitor is
insubordinate, reckless, or lazy.
My mother uses home helpers provided through manpower agencies. She
is one of those evil tycoons and oligarchs that the Histadrut is
striking against this week. She is 84.
The workers and my mom love the arrangement.
No one is forcing anyone to work through the "manpower agencies."
People choose to do so because the alternative is in many cases not
finding work at all. The Histadrut claims to be battling to "protect"
these "exploited workers," those the Histadrut claims are being worked
like slave laborers. The way the Histadrut wants them protected is
to make hiring them much more expensive. If successive, this will
ensure that many of the "manpower agency employees" are forced into
Let me add that the Histadrut in general seeks to price workers out of
the labor market. The Histadrut represents the pampered and skilled
and higher-paid unionized workers in Israel: the overpaid workers in
the Israeli Electric Company, the overpaid port workers, the medical
doctors, and of course overpaid public servants. The way it protects
its constituents is by seeking to make hiring unskilled workers, who
in a sense are the competition for Histadrut constituents, so
expensive that they will not be hired. Hence employers will need to
substitute skilled Histadrut union employees for the many unskilled
workers priced out of work. This is why the Histadrut always has lead
the campaign to raise the minimum wage. As anyone who has taken
freshman economics knows, one of the main causes of unemployment in
Western economies is the minimum wage. If the Histadrut had its way,
it would raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour, ensuring that
unskilled workers could never get any jobs at all, and so all
employers would have to hire more skilled workers and boost THEIR
wages. The Histadrut jihad against "manpower agency" workers is
driven by the same aims.
That and the passionate desire to sabotage the country so that people
will blame Netanyahu and the Likud and then maybe bring the Labor
Party socialists back to power.
There is one other entity to blame. It is the Likud. Since 1977 the
Likud has held power more often than it has not. And it has done
almost nothing to end the Histadrut terrorism. No Reagan-like
anti-union determinism. Reagan's courage broke the back of the union
extortionists in the US (remember the air traffic controllers strike?)
and produced unprecedented economic growth. The growth in the
American economy under Reagan produced incremental economic value and
production greater than the size of the entire German economy.
But not the Likud and not Netanyahu. The same appeasements so beloved
by them as a tactic for dealing with the terrorists and the Arab
fascists is pretty much the way they have always handled the