Two years ago, Alon Hassan, the union chief at Israel’s Ashdod port, wanted to invite work colleagues to his daughter’s bat mitzvah. When he and his co-workers walked off the docks during a weekday, they nearly paralyzed one of the country’s largest trade gateways, enraging importers whose cargo was left stranded offshore.
Israel’s high-tech companies have earned a global reputation for their business acumen. Yet when it comes to raw economic power, it’s hard to beat the unionized port workers calling the shots at the country’s dominant ports in Haifa and Ashdod. These state-owned facilities process about 90 percent of the nation’s exports and imports—and their inefficiency is costing businesses, according to the Manufacturers Association of Israel.