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Workers betrayed but not defeated
Isreal: Yedioth newspaper lockout
YEDIOTH WORKERS returned to work after a bitter three weeks of struggle. Management failed in their plans to destroy the workers' organisation. Unfortunately, an agreement signed by the Histadruth [trade union federation] representatives behind the backs of the workers will mean the sacking of at least 13 workers in the pre-press department.
A Brutal Assault on Organised Workers
YEDIOTH HAD hired Yaakov Kfir, a notorious union buster, who had broken the workers' organisations in the Haaretz and Maariv newspapers. He had planned the lockout like a war, hiring 700 thugs to intimidate the workforce and using helicopters to bypass the printworkers' blockades. A skeleton edition of the paper was printed on the non-union printing presses of Maariv, Haaretz and even in Ramalla (in the Palestinian authority).
The owners of Maariv, while fiercely competing with Yedioth, were prepared to stand behind owners Moses and Fishman in order to defeat their common enemy: the workers.
The media launch a vicious campaign of slander against the Yedioth workers accusing them of being over-paid, violent and opposed to new technology. The police stood idly by while Yedioth workers were beaten by hired thugs armed with chains and sticks and then arrested wounded Yedioth workers in hospital.
Yedioth Workers Fight Back
KFIR PROBABLY planned to break the spirit of the Yedioth workers, and force them back to work within days under the most humiliating conditions, and without their union organisation. But he did not expect resistance of the Yedioth workers, who night after night blockaded the distribution of the paper, held regular meetings of all strikers, demonstrated outside Moses' home, fly-posted the country and appealed to the public who cancelled subscription en masse.
Unfortunately, this fighting spirit was not matched by the Histadruth leaders, who refused to organise solidarity action to back up the Yedioth workers. Actions such as withdrawing all unionised services (including phones, electricity, mail delivery) from the business owned by Moses and Fishman, as well as printing works which printed Yedioth, would have achieved a speedy and decisive victory in the dispute. Instead the Histadruth limited its support to printing stickers and providing lawyers.
The agreement was signed by David Galanos, a Histadruth official who heads the print-workers union, without the agreement of the Yedioth workers' committee. The lock out had lasted three weeks, cost $44 million, and Yedioth management were coming under increasing pressure to settle the dispute before the loss of sales and advertising revenue to Maariv became permanent.
The Yedioth workers committee have refused to sign this agreement which only guarantees long term employment for 61 out of the 106 workers in the pre-press department and which agrees to 13 immediate redundancies.
At a workers' meeting where the agreement was presented, furious workers grabbed the microphone, accusing Galanos of selling the workers out and demanded his resignation.
THIS HAS been a difficult dispute for Yedioth workers, who were faced with some of the most vicious management tactics Israel has seen. Despite being isolated and betrayed by the Histadruth leadership, they fought till the end and returned to work with their organisation and fighting strength intact.
Workers in Israel need to draw out the lessons of the painful experience of Yedioth workers to prepare themselves for the battles ahead.
The bosses unite to battle the workers. The workers need to be united to defeat the bosses. The Yedioth workers' committee should have called a meeting of all the workers' committees in the country. This meeting should have decided how each workers' committee could take action in its own branch against the interests of the Yedioth proprietors, and all the bosses who collaborate with them against the workers. Thousands of workers should have been mobilised to reinforce the print workers' blockades and ensure victory in the battle against management's hired thugs.
The media, police, and courts are not impartial but are weapons used by the ruling class in their battles against the workers. Workers should not rely on these bodies but on their own struggle, their own determination, their own organisation and their own strength.
The Yedioth workers were isolated and betrayed by the Histadruth leadership. Workers must democratically control their own struggle, and not allow officials to sign agreements behind their backs. Workers must fight to replace the present leadership of the Histadruth, with a fighting leadership, which is loyal to workers in struggle and which organises workers solidarity on the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.
In The Socialist 7 July 2000: