Over a thousand people marched through central Tel Aviv to mark International Workers Day on Thursday evening.
Carrying red flags and banners from several left-wing parties, the protesters marched from Habimah Square to Meir Park shouting slogans against the “capitalist regime.”
MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who led the march to raise minimum wage to NIS 30 per hour (from the current NIS 23.12), said that in 2014, marking the First of May was as relevant as ever.
“When we live in a country with major equality gaps and where most of the poor are working people, waking up in the morning and coming home at night after a long day’s work only to continue to live under the poverty line – we say enough,” he declared from a podium at Meir Park.
Henin said that the minimum wage in Israel was the lowest among all Western countries and that the only way to effect change and raise salaries was through a different government.
“The future does not lie in the settlements, but in social justice,” he said. “We need to replace this extreme-right-wing government and together we will provide a different response for our society.”
The crowd also heard speeches from MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and representatives of numerous workers’ groups.
Following the speeches, Meretz hosted a screening of the documentary The Seven Circles of Hell in Public Housing.
“We’ve become a society of castes and classes,” MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) lamented prior to the event.
Gilon added: “One line connects hundreds of thousands of workers and the thousands waiting for public housing, who demand to exercise their right to a roof over their heads. We want to bring the state back from real estate tycoons and manpower company pimps to the citizens, its real owner.”
Activist Yael Sinai, center coordinator of Koach LaOvdim (Power to the Workers), the Democratic Workers’ Organization, told The Jerusalem Post at the march that May 1 was an important holiday.
“Once a year workers are able to show the banks, tycoons and the government a demonstration of their power,” she said.
According to Sinai, raising the minimum wage is a crucial step toward minimizing the social and economic gaps in Israel.
“A person can work 12 years on minimum wage just to reach the [monthly] salary of one bank tycoon,” she said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) wished workers a happy May 1 in a blog post on a Labor Party-affiliated website.
“In recent years in Israel, this date once again became a symbol of the battle of working people,” he wrote.
“They saw the unwritten pact between them and the government, that if they contribute to society and work hard they can live in dignity, period.”
Herzog praised the recent wave of new unions being formed “from Pelephone to Domino’s Pizza.”
“They refuse to accept the existing situation and are fighting for their conditions. They are determined, full of ideology and are inspiring. This is their day and I salute them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the New Liberal Movement led a counter-event, holding a memorial service at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for the victims of socialism and communism, titled “Remembrance Day for 100 Million Murdered.”
“When facing those who glorify some of the worst perpetrators of genocide in history, we need to remember the tens of millions who all they did was live under red flags and suffered from the biggest social experiment ever. The First of May should be a memorial day,” Boaz Arad, one of the New Liberal Movement’s founders, said.