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Solidarity with FAU Berlin

Philadelphia IWW Demonstrates at the German Consulate Against Repression of the FAU Union in Berlin By John Kalwaic Despite freezing cold weather on January 29 members of the Philadelphia General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World picketed the Philadelphia German Consulate as part of an International day of action in solidarity with the FAU-B or (Free Workers Union) in Berlin, Germany. The FAU Berlin has come under attack from both the employers of the Babylon Cinema where workers are trying to organize and the city government, which is trying to outlaw the FAU. Philadelphia IWW members displayed signs in both English and German expressing solidarity with the FAU outside the building. In addition to distributing flyers, branch members sang labor songs and chanted that workers had the right to organize anywhere in the world. Founded in 1919, the FAU has a long history fighting for the rights of workers in Germany. The international day of action was called to protest a court ruling on December 11th 2009 in Berlin that strips the FAU’s right to call itself a union, making their organization illegal. This court ruling was a result of the refusal of the Management of the Babylon Mitt Cinema to bargain a contract with the FAU. Rather than negotiate with the FAU, the management claimed that the FAU could not negotiate a contract with management because the FAU was not a “legitimate” labor union under German labor law. The mainstream “leftist” Ver.di Union that is a part of the state-backed DGB umbrella union in Germany and the former communist “Left Party” also joined with Babylon Cinema bosses to try outlaw the FAU as a union. The staff of the Babylon Cinema refused to go quietly and organized a boycott and protests against the cinema. Both the Ver.di Union and the Left Party negotiated an ineffective and weak contract with the cinema management without the consent of the employees, which was well below that of the average Ver.di Union shop. Not satisfied with the lower court ruling, the Babylon Cinema bosses have continued their legal attacks on the workers, demanding that the FAU’s officers be jailed and fined thousands of Euros because they refused to abandon their union and its members. This would be the first time the FAU has been outlawed in Germany since the Nazis rose to power in 1933 and crushed all independent trade unions. The Philadelphia IWW made repeated requests for a meeting with the Honorary German Consul Barbara Afanassiev with no response. Instead of continuing to wait for an appointment, the Philadelphia IWW decided to have a picket at the German Consulate in coordination with the day of action. The protest started with an hour of picketing and a distribution of leaflets with information about the FAU’s situation in Germany. After the picketing, two fellow workers entered the building to deliver a letter of protest to the consul on the third floor. Security authorities stated that they could not go up to the third floor as “there was no one there to receive them.” One of the IWW members called the Consul’s office, and after several attempts, was connected to the Consul Barbara Afanassiev, who then agreed to meet the Fellow Workers in the lobby to receive the letter. Ms Afanassiev was already aware of the IWW picket, and claimed that she had not ignored the requests for a meeting, but had just been too busy to follow through. The branch members delivered the protest letter in support of the FAU, and Afanassiev said she would forward it to the German Consul General in New York City. A brief exchange ensued, with IWW members making it clear that repression of worker’s rights is not acceptable and that this treatment of the FAU cannot continue. Again, Ms Afanassiev stated that she was very powerless in this situation, and that she would forward on the message to the Consul General. The picket was a great success, and the message was conveyed to the German Consul, as well as many others in the building and the general public. The Philadelphia IWW plans to continue to monitor the situation in Berlin, and will keep the pressure on until the repression of the FAU is ended. For more information on the situation, please visit the following websites: