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“Working for Free” for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation: Historian Cheated Out of Over 3,000 Euros

Published on Jun 28, 2016 Tag:
A Berlin journalist and historian was commissioned for a research project by the director of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s regional office in São Paulo (Brazil); the director has since accepted and edited the finished project – but when the time came to pay for the work, no one appeared to be responsible. The director in São Paulo claims he didn't receive the money from the Berlin office, while the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin says he had no authority to commission the project in the first place. The journalist is left with unpaid work worth over 3,000 euros. In our experience, this pattern is not a new one: employers duck out of their responsibilities for unpaid wages and pass the blame to each other. Despite its "left-wing" credentials, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation would seem to be no exception.

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF) is a private foundation for political education, affiliated with the German party DIE LINKE (THE LEFT). It employs hundreds of workers across the country and maintains several regional offices around the world, among them, an office in São Paulo, Brazil.

In late April 2015, the director of the regional office in São Paulo offered a project commission to a journalist and historian specializing in Latin American studies. The finished project was to be presented in November 2015 in Paraguay, at the 40th anniversary of “Operation Condor”.  Both verbally and in written form, the director as well as the journalist explicitly confirmed that work on the project would only begin if it was paid for according the daily rate stipulated in the journalist’s project description.

In September 2015, the journalist sent in the completed text and an invoice. The text itself was immediately edited and sent back by the director. But one week later, he informed her that neither the RLF had commissioned her nor could he pay for her work.

When she reminded him of their agreement, he sent her a 900 € contract for a project on an entirely different topic – without paying for the completed text on Operation Condor.
All subsequent payment reminders issued on the part of both the journalist and the legal protection department of the trade union Ver.di were ignored. As nothing changed in this respect, the journalist filed a law suit against RLF. The hearing will take place on July 7 at 9.15 a.m. in Berlin, Amtsgericht Tempelhof, Möckernstr. 130, room 258. The media section of the FAU Berlin, of which the journalist is now a member, has issued a call for solidarity.

RLF is committed to workers’ rights and social justice as well as the struggle against sexism and racism. However, this case of the journalist and historian cheated out of her pay does not seem to be the first instance of the Foundation ignoring the rights of its own employees.  According to media reports, a female employee was fired from the New York office in 2015 after organizing union action against the lack of protection against unfair dismissal. As it turned out, out of the four project managers in the New York office, this woman and her black colleague were paid a lower entry level salary than their white male colleagues.

Underneath the "left-wing" veneer, the picture of capitalism is ultimately always the same. (For more details, please see the German version of our union news.)

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