Blockupy Goes Labor Struggle

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With Susanne Mantel, ver.di Berlin / Betriebsrätin H&M, Anton Thun, DIE LINKE.SDS / DIE LINKE Berlin und  Thomas Seibert, medico international (Germany)

Up to now the strength of the Blockupy protests was to be found in their solidarity with the Europe-wide struggles against austerity and in the widespread criticism of capitalism. The action days in 2013 marked a first attempt to grasp “crisis” more broadly by including actions relating to the retail sector and global value-added chains (in the actions in the commercial avenue “Zeil”).

General strikes take place regularly in Greece and Spain. In Germany, despite the crisis, things remain calm. Yet in Germany wages are also sinking, temporary work is in the rise and the debt brake is being implemented. The labor unions thus find themselves in a central role: social peace will only be shaken when unionists decouple themselves from crisis coorporatism and ‘social partnership’ and a new readiness for strike is established in workplaces.

This kind of opportunity presents itself in two fields in particular: in the disputes in the retail sector where a general attack is taking place against workers through the cancellation of the general wage agreement contract by the employers. In many places Ver.di is starting to struggle and is depending on solidarity. Another “experimental field” for the union and the radical left could lie in those places where “crisis migrants” are working – in the field of care. At present young persons from Spain and Portugal are being brought to Southern Germany to fill these jobs.

These struggles must be understood in the context of global production chains. What does this mean for union work? Where are points of overlap for common, transnational anti-crisis protests? Blockupy activists in Berlin have begun collecting experiences in supporting strikes by accompanying the striking workers in solidarity. During the action days in Frankfurt valuable lessons were also learned about what it means to act locally and transnationally/globally. In this workshop these experiences should be reflected alongside a strategic debate. The possible generalization of these experiences for other local Blockupy coalitions should be discussed.