Maoz runs a team of 20 to 30 full-time and part-time staff, aided by roughly 100 volunteers, with a budget of just 4 million shekels. In the West Bank, roving staff give presentations to Palestinian workers about their rights. In Tel Aviv, Haifa and Nazareth, Kav LaOved’s offices are packed full of workers, most of them women.
New mothers ask about maternity rights. Anxious migrant workers seek advice on visa issues. Injured construction workers inquire about compensation. Caregivers ask for advice on dealing with sexual harassment.
But Kav LaOved not only assists with individual cases, it also pursues systemic change through political advocacy, the courts and data collection.
Several years ago, the group started monitoring workplace accidents in the construction industry, a sector dominated by Palestinian day laborers. The project has since evolved into a database on injuries and fatalities across every sector. “It’s now actually used by government agencies and officials because it’s the only reliable and accessible source of information,” Maoz says.
The data Kav LaOved gathers and publishes – and the thousands of cases they assist with – is closely connected to their advocacy and legal strategies as well.
After years of Palestinian day-laborers facing exploitation through binding, company-specific visas, Kav LaOved has helped push the government to trial industry-wide visas to give workers more freedom to move between employers.
After seeing numerous cases of migrant workers paying exorbitant ‘brokerage fees’ and being treated as indentured servants, Kav LaOved joined with legal groups to lodge a petition with the Supreme Court to block the practice.
And while their casework is assisting individual asylum seekers in the face of widespread underpayment by their employers, a Kav LaOved lawsuit is making its way through the courts to block the law which makes it possible.
This integration of grassroots casework, political campaigning and legal advocacy is a unique strength of the organization, Maoz says. “Our shadow is bigger than what we are, people see us as a powerful force,” she says. “People know that we’re going to be there to defend workers’ rights.”