Saturday, June 28, 2008

The following article is from the main IWW website. The Industrial Workers of the World have a vibrant and growing branch in German speaking countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and they are organizing workers their to press for their rights. The following is a report of one of their efforts- against the Boesner Art Supply chain store. The following article has been slightly edited for reasons of spelling.

German IWW And Supporters Take On Boesner Art Supplies Chain
On June 7, Wobblies and supporters held loud and visible protest rallies at the stores of the art supplies chain Boesner in Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Graz. With these actions, they protested against the management of the Boesner shop in Cologne, who prevented an organizing drive of the Cologne IWW by harassing workers who had tried to form a works council (Betriebsrat) there.

The German labour law guarantees the formation of works councils elected by the workers in shops with 5 workers or more and prohibits management action against the election process of these institutional bodies. When members and supporters of the IWW at the Boesner shop announced the elections for a works council the management began to panic. Workers were questioned and taken under pressure in interviews at the managers office. One day before the election should take place, the management held a meeting with all workers, where they threatened to cut wages and extend working hours if a works councils would be formed. The forced the workers to vote publicly in front of the managers against a works council. Frustrated by the divisions successfully made by these illegal employers actions, the IWWs withdraw their election announcement.

A few months later the management of Boesner Cologne began to implement the first measures they had threatened the workers with: the extension of working hours by opening of the stores on Saturdays (which hadn't been the case before and obviously had been intended by them anyway). But neither did they employ more workers to staff the extra shifts, nor did they pay a weekend bonus, which is not uncommon for weekend work in Germany. The shifts should have to cope the extra-load of work with more intensified stress at work.

So the Cologne IWW decided to call to action at the local shop and other Boesner stores in Germany and around. While the IWW branches in Cologne and Frankfurt organized the rallies on their own, the Berlin branch of the FAU supported the move and held a rally in front of the Berlin Boesner store too. In Austria the anarcho-syndicalist Federation of Workers Syndicates (Foederation der Arbeiter Innen-Syndikate, FAS) where some Austrian IWW members are also organized, held rallies in Vienna and Graz.

At the rallies, we got some very positive reactions from customers, who took the leaflets into the store and signed a petition to respect workers rights at the workplace. We used printed transparencies with the motto "Democracy for workers too!" which surely will be used for further rallies. Furthermore, we could make contacts to radical trade unionists and workers activists who supported the action. Pressure will be put on the company until they'll finally back down. Our chances are not bad, as he Boesner company is strongly deponent on their image facade of a fair and friendly social responsible firm and can?t be interested in earning a bad reputation as a union-busting sweatshop.

Lutz Getzschmann, x356711 -

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