Hundreds of taxi drivers gathered last week for the founding conference of the Histadrut’s Union of Taxi Drivers.

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“This is a historic moment that will change our future,” said Sigal Melnik Novoselski, chairwoman of the Taxi Drivers’ Acting Committee. “The competition between us over the years is what brought us to the current situation in which the government ministries don’t recognize us, and the consequence has been that our livelihoods are put into jeopardy. The time has come to chart a new path, to come together in the Histadrut. Solidarity is not a dirty word, it’s the only way that we can consolidate our strength.”

Melnik told the story of her father, who was also a taxi driver. 

“My father taught me about the inner strength that lies within each of us. In order to achieve our goals, we have to act, and we have to act together. It will be a long and difficult process, there will be ups and downs, but we won’t give up on the dozens of percentage points they’ve taken off of our meters, on reducing the cost of using public transit lanes, on lowering the gas and insurance costs which have gone up, on the right to unemployment benefits, on recognition of driving as a profession, recognition which will offer us an answer in case of workplace accidents and provide industrial health services.״

Sigal Melnik Novoselski: “My father taught me about the inner strength that lies within each of us” (Photo: Davar)

“There is not a single driver in Israel that doesn’t understand what they’ve taken from us, what bothers him and what needs to be fixed. To address these issues, we need to build a strong organization, one that represents taxi drivers, one that will look out for our interests in the long term. In order to do this we have to consolidate our power and unionize through the Histadrut,” she continued.

Avi Edri, chairman of the Transportation Workers’ Union, offered guidance to the newly founded union. 

“Up until now, taxi drivers have been on their own. But today, you have a home, together with 800 thousand Israeli workers. You’re part of the family of transportation workers, together with employees of Egged and Dan [two leading Israeli bus companies], of the aviation companies and the sea ports. A big and powerful family,” said Edri, adding that the new taxi drivers’ union would also receive guidance and support from Arnon Bar David, chairman of the Histadrut. 

“Every one of you is an ambassador of the union. To achieve the goals that you’ve laid out, we need thousands of taxi drivers to join this union. I want the Union of Taxi Drivers to become a strong branch of the Histadrut,” he went on. 

“When we protest, I want to be able to bring thousands of taxis to Jerusalem. I want us to have a lobby in the Knesset, and for this to happen we need thousands of drivers behind us. So that we can go to the insurance companies with massive consumer power behind us and force them to lower their prices.”

Rom Dvir, manager of the Histadrut’s new unionization division, discussed the various services of the Histadrut that unionized drivers will now enjoy. According to Dvir, the organization can also offer individual guidance and services, such as consultation on traffic laws. 

Avi Edri, chairman of the Transportation Workers’ Union: “You are part of the family of transportation workers.” (Photo: Davar)

The conference included an address from Avi Dvik, a lawyer who has specialized in traffic law for 23 years and served as a police officer in the traffic law enforcement division for 13 years. 

“If, God forbid, you’re involved in an accident, call us and we’ll provide legal counsel on-site before police or insurance inspections, as well as counsel afterwards,” he said. “In the case of serious accidents, God forbid, we’ll also come to the site to support you. We know all the inspectors in the country and they know us – they know not to pull any tricks when we’re involved.”

Founding conference of the Taxi Drivers’ Union. “If, God forbid, you’re involved in an accident, call us and we’ll provide legal counsel on-site” (Photo: Davar)

Legal counsel is offered free of charge to drivers who are members of the Histadrut, and includes guidance and representation in all manner of legal proceedings. Dvir emphasized that the organization will put on a series of conferences throughout the country and host roundtable discussions to listen to the concerns of taxi drivers. This will be followed by the establishment of institutions and leadership elections in accordance with the Histadrut’s constitution.

This article was translated from Hebrew by Sam Edelman.