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May 1, 2009

Archaeology and Farm Workers Head WAC-MAAN's May 1 Rally in Tel Aviv

Hundreds of workers and youth, members of WAC-MAAN, marched on May 1 with the message: "No to unemployment! No to swine capitalism!"

At the head of the procession marched archaeology workers who are struggling against exploitation, side by side with agricultural workers demanding an end to the importing of migrants who take their jobs. Behind them marched workers from all of WAC's centers in Galilee and the Triangle, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, including construction workers, teachers, restaurant and hotel workers. All have chosen to organize through WAC with the aim of building a new trade union.

The procession started on Rothschild Boulevard and culminated in a rally at Gan Meir on King George Street. Passers-by stopped at the sight of red flags amid Tel Aviv's busy streets on a Friday afternoon, while the marchers chanted in Hebrew and Arabic against the right-wing policies of Binyamin Netanyahu. Calls of support arose from the crowd of onlookers.

The rally at Gan Meir was led by Nir Nader and Wafah Tayara, WAC activists. Both called on those who hadn't yet joined WAC-MAAN to do so. Only through organization, they said, can you protect yourself against getting fired; only through organization can you ensure a fair wage, social benefits and a decent pension.

Among the speakers was WAC National Coordinator Assaf Adiv. He contrasted the cozy relation between the Histadrut and the government with WAC's approach, which sees the global financial crisis as capitalism's ultimate failure. He called for an end to privatization, the import of migrant workers, and tycoon bailouts. Adiv demanded too an end to the decades-old Israeli technique of playing the workers off against one another. He closed by naming those who had died in job accidents since the last May 1. Every year, he said, 60 workers are killed in such accidents here. Many would have been avoided if human life were judged more important than easy profits. WAC acts, he said, to raise public consciousness on the safety issue.

WAC activist Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, ODA's candidate in the Knesset elections, roundly criticized the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government, which perpetuates the neoliberal agenda while ignoring the change that is sweeping the world, including America under Obama. She called on the Jewish and Arab publics to unite in WAC, build a social alternative, and act toward a peaceful solution, against the aggressive tendency of a government that rejects negotiations.

Dr. Itzik Saporta of HaOketz, a website on social issues, called on the various currents that demonstrate in Israel on May 1 to unite in a single stream. Only by organizing, he said, could workers become the motor behind a new democratic political force.

In a penetrating speech, Dr. Roi Wagner of Kav La'Oved contrasted the current panic over swine flu with the world's indifference to the millions of people who have fallen victim to swinish capitalism.

Composer Amir Lev sang before the rally. The rock group Louey performed poems by Yudit Shachar, who took part. And poet Roni Somek read from his work.

The event ended, as every year, with awards of excellence to those WAC member who had demonstrated a spirit of solidarity and initiative toward union organization. Nader and Tayara also called to the stage the 21 archaeology workers who are now at the height of their legal struggle against exploitation by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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