A large photo of Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich surrounded by striking Israel Railway workers was published alongside an article by economist Roby Nathanson in Haaretz last week. From the photo, one could get the impression that Yacimovich is always with the unions, almost a labor leader herself. But is that so?
In June, Yacimovich's patron, Ofer Eini, the Histadrut labor federation's secretary general, decided to fire Gila Edrai from her post as head of the railway union because she refused to cooperate with moves to privatize the trains. Eini, contrary to the workers' interests, cooked up an agreement with the transportation minister in cooperation with the Finance Ministry for the railways' gradual privatization. And when Edrai dared remain loyal to the workers and came out against the agreement (which she had at first marketed to them as "an achievement" ), she was swiftly dismissed from her position.
And what did Yacimovich - who was photographed with the railway workers - do when Edrai was fired? Did she vehemently object? Did she defend the honor of a workers' leader who had grown up in the railways union? No. She didn't open her mouth against this ruthless move.
And that was just the case of Edrai and the railways. In summer 2011, when the social workers held a prolonged strike against the shameful conditions of their employment, and against the privatization of social services, Yacimovich called on them publicly to return to work, even before the aims of their strike had been achieved. Later she supported the embarrassing agreement that Eini cooked up with the chairman of the social workers' union, which many social workers opposed. Once again, when the patron decides, Yacimovich is there, standing at his side and not at the side of the workers.
From Yacimovich's point of view, Eini is a kind of secular replacement for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and she bows to his authority because he, in return, supports her and those close to her in the internal workings of the Labor Party. That is what happened in the primaries to the party's leadership when Yacimovich ran against Knesset member Amir Peretz. The way Yacimovich operates is similar in many respects to Labor Party tradition: supporting organized labor so long as it is disciplined and does not disturb the government's socioeconomic policies.
Her support for a free market, which Nathanson described in the article as one of Yacimovich's strong points, means always supporting big businessmen who conduct affairs in what is called the free market. Is it not the free market that gave birth to the tycoons and their requests for a "haircut," a trimming of their debts? Is it not the free market that gave birth to the outsourcing of work to exploitative contractors? Is it not the free market that led to the stratification of wages among workers so that women earn less than men, and Arabs earn less than Jews? Is the present reality of the migrant workers not the result of a free market?
There was no need whatsoever for Nathanson to make clear that Yacimovich is not a Marxist; there wasn't the slightest suspicion that she was. But even as someone who isn't a Marxist (a very small compliment in 2012, in the era of the 99 percent ), Yacimovich has proven time and again that at the moment of truth in the campaign against privatization and exploitation, she checks which way the wind is blowing for the Histadrut secretary general, instead of where the workers' interests lie.
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