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FAU's federal congress in Berlin

Published on Jun 14, 2015 Tags: ,
From the 23rd to 24 May, the 39th federal congress of Freie Arbeiterinnen-und Arbeiter-Union took place in Berlin.

On May 23rd delegates from 18 FAU syndicates as well as foreign guests from the International Workers' Association and other syndicalist unions opened the Free Workers' Union (FAU) three-day congress in the Berlin's "House of Democracy and Human Rights". The annual congress consists of reports, elections, panel discussions and working groups.

Like previous years, Sunday morning was particularly exciting as the syndicates cast their votes for various proposals. This was the last time this will happen though, as a new voting procedure was adopted by delegates. In future discussion will take center-stage at the FAU congress instead of voting. This congress was also significant in that the FAU has assumed new basic tenets, replacing the previous principles from 1990.

Aside from these improvements, the congresses most significant acheivements lay in discussions about practice and strategy. The FAU Berlin's struggle for the unpaid wages of construction workers at the Mall of Berlin, the successful start to the prisoners' union GG/BO, the many "smaller" workplace struggles of our syndicates and sister unions, and the considerable growth in membership were all food for thought when discussing the growing importance of grassroots union activity in Germany.

While these are positive signs for the future, there is also considerable cause for concern: For example, the state is planning to limit the possibilities of unions by making the principle of labour unity mandatory, which would mean that only the biggest union in a company has the right to conclude a collective agreement and take industrial action. At the same time there is an increasing number of labour struggles at a grassroots level that circumvent the mainstream, centralist unions and their bureaucracies. As our international guests agreed, these struggles are an expression of capitalism's continual search for new methods of exploitation, whereby migrant workers seem to be a particular target at the moment. All the more important that communication between unions from different countries takes place, which was a focus of this congress. Delegates from Spain (CNT-AIT), Italy (USI-AIT), UK (Solfed Brighton), France (CNT-F and CNT-SO), Switzerland (FAU Bern), Sweden (SAC), Greece (Rocinante) and Poland (IWA Secretariat) described the situation in their countries and their activities.

How we will react to the new challenges but also take advantage of the chances offered to us by the increasing public awareness of our struggles and approach is as much a work in progress as our new declaration of principles and the relauch of our print and online media. A working group will look at this last area over the next year and will make a proposal for improvements to the next congress. Another important question in a grassroots union is how inactive and new members can be involved in day-to-day union work in a time when membership and struggles are increasing. A member of the FAU Berlin foreigners' section spoke about how the foreigners' section and the Swedish syndicalists SAC address this issue. A panel discussion with the IWW's German branch GLAMROC, Labournet.tv and the GG/BO showed that other German labour activists were involved in grassroots workplace organizing as well.

Members of the Union Coop, an initiative to form a federation of coops within the FAU, also contributed to the congress by providing beer and coffee that they produced themselves. Finally, the cooking collective Rigaerstrasse 94 put together a menu for delegates and guests that will be hard to top at future congresses.

Stronger together

Click here to get to the FAU Berlin's English membership formThe FAU Berlin is an independent grassroots union. It is part of the German Free Workers' Union (FAU) federation. Join us, take part, get active.

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