As of the late 1980s, the Histadrut (HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel
HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael, General Federation of Laborers in the
Land of Israel) continued to be a major factor in Israeli life
as the largest voluntary organization in the country. It also
wielded an enormous influence on the government's wage policy
and labor legislation, and was influential in political, social,
and cultural realms (see Distinctive Social Institutions , ch.
2). The largest trade union organization, and largest employer
in Israel after the government, the Histadrut has opened its membership
to almost all occupations. Its membership in 1983 was 1,600,000
(including dependents), accounting for more than one-third of
the total population of Israel and about 85 percent of all wage
earners. About 170,000 Histadrut members were Arabs. Founded in
1920 by Labor Zionist parties, traditionally it has been controlled
by the Labor Party, but not to the exclusion of other parties
(see Multiparty System , this ch.). Almost all political parties
or their affiliated socioeconomic institutions were represented
in the organization.
The Histadrut performed functions that were unique to Israeli
society, a legacy of its nation-building role in a wide range
of economic, trade union, military, social, and cultural activities.
Through its economic arm, Hevrat HaOvdim (Society of Workers),
the Histadrut operated numerous economic enterprises and owned
and managed the country's largest industrial conglomerates. It
owned the country's second largest bank (Bank HaPoalim) and provided
the largest and most comprehensive system of health insurance
and medical and also operated hospital services. In addition,
it coordinated the activities of domestic labor cooperative movements,
and through its International Department, as well as organizations
such as the Afro-Asian Institute, it maintained connections with
labor movements in other countries.
Israeli political parties have regularly contested elections
to the Histadrut Conference (Veida), held every four years. They
also have contested elections to the National Labor Council and
to the country's seventy-two local labor councils. Voting results
in these elections have often paralleled or preceded trends in
parliamentary and municipal elections.
The Histadrut Conference elects a General Council and an Executive
Committee. The committee in turn elects a forty-three member Executive
Bureau, which administers day-to-day policy. The Histadrut's secretary
general, its most powerful official, is elected by the Executive
Committee. As in the past, in late 1988 the Histadrut's secretary
general, Israel Kaissar, was a Labor Party leader and a member
of its Knesset delegation.
Data as of December 1988