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Histadrut Chairman at Queer Rights Conference: “We Will Continue to Work Against Discrimination of Any Sort”

At the first conference of its kind for Histadrut workers, Social Justice and Gender Equality Division chairman Yaya Fink outlined steps to help defend LGBTQ+ workers | The conference included the launch of the first Histadrut forum for queer workers

יו״ר ההסתדרות ארנון בר דוד בכנס זכויות הקהילה הגאה (צילום: דוברות ההסתדרות)
Histadrut Chair Arnon Bar-David at the LGBTQ+ Rights Conference (Photo: Histadrut spokesperson)
By Nizzan Zvi Cohen

“We must be in every workplace, and represent the entire spectrum of workers, each with their own particular needs,” said Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David at a conference for Histadrut workers on the topic of queer rights. The conference, held in Tel Aviv, was organized by the Histadrut’s Social Justice and Gender Equality Division and included the launch of the first forum for queer Histadrut workers.

Bar-David said that union leaders have an important role to play in promoting equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. “The Histadrut will continue to work against discrimination of any kind, and to ensure equal rights for all. We will also work with unions around the world on this issue. The struggle for equality in Israeli society makes us a progressive and enlightened nation.”

Bar-David mentioned the story of Major Sagi Golan, who fell in battle on Kibbutz Be’eri during the Hamas attacks of October 7. His partner, Omer Ohana, fought to be recognized by the IDF as the partner of a fallen soldier, and his struggle led to a legislative change — he became the first state-recognized same-sex partner of a fallen soldier. “We have to fight for equality,” Bar-David said, “not just in sacrifice and death, but also in life.”

Yair “Yaya” Fink, the vice chairman of the Histadrut and chairman of the Social Justice and Gender Equality Division, spoke about the Histadrut’s steps to help defend LGBTQ+ workers. Fink said that his division had trained the Histadrut’s legal counsel across all sectors of the country to better assist members of the queer community regarding their rights in the workplace. The Histadrut also created a dedicated hotline for the issue.

According to Fink, the division is also assisting in the establishment of queer forums at a number of workplaces, among them: Clal Insurance, Assuta Medical Center, Strauss Water, The Israel Electrical Corporation, SAP, and the Open University.

Fink: “Our goal is that in every workplace there will be someone for queer workers to turn to, in addition to the union. We are working with organizations in the queer community in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva, and we are forging connections between the Histadrut and the Open Houses (nonprofit community centers for the queer community).

“I get asked what my interest is in this as a straight, religious man. You don’t need to be a woman to be a feminist and you don’t need to be queer to support equal rights for every person who was made in God's image. If a friend of mine who has served with me now for 142 days of reserve duty is good enough to be wounded or killed by my side, but not to get married here — that is also my fight.

“If, in 2024, people still don’t feel comfortable to come out of the closet at their workplaces, that is everyone’s fight. The establishment of a division for this issue is a historic step, a statement by the Histadrut that we are the home of the workers in Israel not just when it comes to paychecks and pensions. We want everyone to feel comfortable in their workplaces.”

“It’s thanks to the chairman of the Histadrut that this important division was founded”, said Maggi Moore, chairwoman of the Assuta workers’ union. Moore, who also serves as a board member of The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, said that “the Histadrut is the biggest social movement in Israel, it’s my home.

“The LGBTQ+ community, like this building, has always been a symbol of equality, acceptance, and inclusion of the other. Throughout the years of the State of Israel’s existence, we have been a balancing and stablizing force. Whenever extremists take the helm of the state, our community, like the Histadrut, is the sane voice that returns the ship to its course.

“Go to your workplaces, put a pride flag in the offices of the union representative and the manager, spread the message of pride and recognition to the community. Give your workers confidence and strength. Sign collective agreements to unionize your workplaces and to also defend the queer community — workshops and seminars to raise awareness of the rights of the queer community. A day off for every worker to march during pride month. Surrogacy grants. Medical and financial assistance for people becoming pregnant at a later age. Be the agents of change.”

Meital Lehavi, a Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv who holds the LGBTQ+ portfolio on the city council, also attended the conference. “Today, the Histadrut proudly hoists the rainbow flag,” Lehavi said. “This sends a message. Currently, we are setting up a forum for all the heads of LGBTQ+ issues in the municipal governments. I would like to invite the Histadrut to be part of the forum to promote the issue in the municipalities as well.”

This article was translated from Hebrew by Tzivia Gross.

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