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Partners For Change: Labor

If America is to regain its competitiveness, we must revitalize the American workplace to increase productivity and expand opportunity.

The Israeli work ethic is reflected in the strength of its trade unions. The American labor movement has long maintained ties with its counterpart in Israel. "Indeed," wrote Michael Perry, Assistant Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, "since 1917, when the American Federation of Labor adopted a resolution endorsing the legitimate claims of the Jewish people for the establishment of a homeland in Palestine, perhaps no institution in American society outside of the Jewish community has provided as much political, financial and moral support to the Jewish State as the American labor movement."

Israel's labor movement is widely respected in the United States, Perry says, because of the "crucial role played by the Histadrut in nation-building and the fact that the founding leaders of the Jewish State were products of the labor movement....American labor has long been convinced that by supporting Israel, it is supporting the most fundamental principles of free trade unionism" (Near East Report, February 26, 1990).

Israeli Models

One of Clinton and Gore's major goals is to guarantee every American affordable, quality health care. While it may not be a perfect model, through Israel's trade union, the Histadrut, approximately 85 percent of the population has access to an extensive social welfare system and national health and benefit program.

Besides the longstanding cooperation between the American and Israeli labor movements, the two governments work together to promote "the interests of the workers in the two countries and to the ideals of a democratic society with equal opportunity for all." This language is contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Labor and Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MLSA) signed in 1986 and renewed in 1992. According to the agreement, the two nations will cooperate in areas that include: employment and training; labor-management relations; occupational safety and health; research and statistics; labor standards; occupational rehabilitation and women's affairs.

  • Shortly after the MOU was signed in 1986, the Women's Bureau had a seminar on women and employment.
  • In 1987, a three-day conference was held on issues of occupational health and safety, collection and use of labor statistics and employment and training.
  • In 1989-90, two joint seminars were held between the Department of Labor and the MLSA. The first was a seminar on occupational safety and health held at Tel Aviv University. The second was on decentralization of bargaining in the United States and Israel, organized by the Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative Programs in Washington.

Israel also contributes to the American objective of creating jobs through open markets because of its Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

The Afro-Asian Institute

The Agency for International Development provides funding to Israel's Afro-Asian Institute to train leadership for labor and cooperative movements; community organizations; women's and youth groups' educational and development institutions and related bodies in African, Asian, Caribbean, Pacific and Mediterranean countries. The Institute was founded by the Histadrut in 1958 and has been particularly active in recent years in training black South African leaders in community-building techniques.