Israel: Court Overturns Dismissal of Young Communist Labor Organizer


7-31-07, 9:15 am

The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court on Sunday ruled that the dismissal of Alon-Lee Green from his job at the Coffee Bean coffee shop chain three weeks ago was unlawful, and instructed the company to rehire him. Green, a young communist labour organizer, was dismissed over his attempts to unionize Coffee Bean employees and for recruiting his colleagues to join the Histadrut labour federation.

The Histadrut petitioned the court asking for an injunction against Green's dismissal, and the court complied. The court issued the injunction after the coffee shop's management failed to prove that Green's dismissal was unrelated to his efforts to unionize the employees of the chain.

The Coffee Bean chain, owned by Excellent Coffee, operates 12 branches across Israel. Green, 19, began his employment with the chain as a barista. His employers were pleased with his performance and after three weeks he was promoted to the position of shift manager. Two months ago he even received a raise and a bonus for his excellent work.

The Histadrut's petition to the court maintains that the employers' attitude toward Green changed when he decided, together with two colleagues, to form a worker's union for the chain's employees. Green formulated a 'demands document' seeking reimbursement for employees' taxi rides at night and on weekends when there is no available public transportation, pay for overtime hours as dictated by the law, payment of salaries on time, regulated breaks for cooks and a negotiated wage agreement for Coffee Bean employees. The document was signed by 50 out of the 180 chain employees by the time Green was fired from his job.

Green and his friends submitted the document to the branch manager in April of this year. The manager responded with outrage and told the employees that they are prohibited from unionizing the branch. Green was then informed of his dismissal for 'performance failures'.

After the dismissal, representatives from the Coffee Bean chain contacted the Histadrut and expressed interest in formulating a collective bargaining agreement for the chain. The Histadrut replied that they would be willing to negotiate only if the chair rehired Green. The Coffee Bean management refused. The Histadrut then wrote to the labor court that 'the chain's request to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (with the Histadrut labour federation) was not an innocent one. Rather, it was intended to create a smokescreen and mislead the court into thinking that it looked favorably upon its employees' attempts to unionize.'

The Histadrut also maintained that Green's dismissal was in violation of the law and said that firing Green could prevent other employees from initiating similar moves in the future.

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