December 12, 1920
The General Federation of Jewish Labor, or the Histadrut, is founded in Haifa to serve as a neutral, independent trade union to represent all Jewish workers in Palestine. The Histadrut sought to represent both urban and rural workers, although in the early years, men and women working in the cities made up the bulk of its membership.
In addition to traditional trade unions, the Histadrut became a conglomerate of sorts, including construction enterprises, credit and banking for its members and material distribution and marketing agencies. The Histadrut accounts for more than 20 percent of the national income in Israel and maintains health insurance and other social services for its members.
In 1921, David Ben-Gurion was elected as Secretary General of the Histadrut, and by 1927 the Histadrut had 25,000 members, representing 75% of the Jewish workers in Palestine. The Histadrut would become a major force in developing the economy and infrastructure of the yishuv.
Today, the Histadrut remains a major force in Israeli labor and the economy. Approximately 600,000 Israeli workers or one third of Israel’s work force are direct members of the Histadrut, represented by a variety of unions including: Teachers Unions; Doctors Unions; Electrical/Power Workers Unions; Clerks Unions; Steelworkers Union, Ports and Airports Authorities Union and Security/arms industries Union. Another 200,000 are associated with Histadrut committees or guilds. The Secretary General of the Histadrut holds one of the most powerful position in the country’s economy and is involved in working disputes with economic concerns over firing of workers, closing of industrial plants and salaries’ contracts.
Photo Credit: 1950 poster proclaiming that the immigrant worker’s place is in the Histadrut.