The Hayei Adam (Life of Man) carpentry shop in Mishor Adumim, the industrial zone of the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, manufactures furniture for synagogues. It’s owner is an ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jew, but the workers are Palestinians. The carpentry shop is actually a sweatshop, just outside this thriving city. The workers have no means of protection. If they’re injured or burned on the job, they have to look after themselves. Their salaries – far below the minimum wage – are paid late, in cash, without a salary slip. The employers deduct 1 percent from their pay, because “that’s the commission for cashing a check.” There is no pension, no sick leave, no vacation, nor are employees supplied with work clothes or shoes. They bring their lunch from home. When the workers organized a shaded corner for half an hour of rest, the foreman tore it down.
Recently, the workers say, they decided to unionize with the aid of WAC-MAAN, the Workers Advice Center, the only labor organization out of four in the country that cares about and deals with Palestinian workers.
But young Palestinians are no longer the greenhorns their forebears were. They’re familiar with High Court of Justice rulings stipulating that their rights as workers in the occupied territories are the same as those of Jewish workers. They’re also familiar with the recent historic court decision in WAC’s favor, in a case involving workers in a Mishor Adumim garage. The garage owners were ordered to pay each worker tens if not hundreds of thousands of shekels after years of trampling the law. Today, wages paid in an orderly and lawful way.
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