Who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing
Many of us have experienced bad working conditions. Many are being ripped off by our bosses, which is even easier for them if we don’t know our rights at work. To fight back, we’ve organized under the umbrella of Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiterunion (FAU), a confederation of independent trade unions. In FAU, we struggle collectively for better working conditions and educate ourselves on our rights and ways to act.
We come from various countries and work in a range of industries, making our experiences very diverse. This gives us a variety of skills and resources to work with. Some of us have been part of union struggles for many years, while others have joined recently, contributing new perspectives and ideas. Diversity is our strength.
Our struggles have many layers: we offer practical support and counseling to individual members for smaller problems, for example by making their boss pay wages or leave pay. We run long-term campaigns for collective solidarity. We help our members organize their workplaces and struggle for better conditions. Our members are directly involved in these activities. And you can join us!
FAU is a militant, grass-roots union. It’s the guiding principle for everything we do. We know that by joining forces, we workers can change our situation ourselves. Let us take back the power from the capitalist system and from work which have such a strong grip on our entire lives!
A brief history of FAU
FAU was founded as a successor FAUD, the largest anarcho-syndicalist union of pre-war Germany, which was dismantled as part of the Nazis rise to power in 1933. In its strongest phase, FAUD had about 150,000 members. Since its creation in 1977, FAU has been constantly developing. We are a dynamic, radical union – we’re quick to adapt and capable of answering changes in work relations with new forms of action.
Work relations and conditions are constantly changing, always for the benefit of bosses and their profits and mostly to the detriment of workers. The bosses keep discovering new ways for circumventing the rights that workers all over the world have won in their struggles. Buzzwords like “flexibility” and catchphrases like “Be your own boss” often gloss over unpaid overtime, no paid leave and no health insurance.
Social and retirement benefits, health care and wages are slashed while health insurance fees, taxes and rents are on the rise – particularly for those who have the least and depend most on them. We’re expected to work longer, for less pay and without any expectation of long-term security. And we’re supposed to be grateful for being allowed to sell our labor for any wage at all.
We’re pushed to snitch on our coworkers. When we see others suffering, we’re supposed to blame them, their lifestyle, their wrong priorities, their laziness or weakness.
We’re discouraged from looking at things from a larger perspective: how the way our society is structured shapes the opportunities and decisions of the individual. We’re supposed to be indifferent to the plight of others.
FAU provides a place for us workers to come together. A place where we can learn to understand the problems we face in the workplace. It doesn’t take much to recognize how similar the problems we face as workers are: here in Leipzig and all over the world.
FAU and the large German unions
Why is it better to join FAU than Ver.di, IG Metall or other unions that are part of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB)?
Our guiding principle is self-organization. FAU is a grass-roots union: our members make all decisions. Other than the large unions, we don’t have a hierarchy of union officials who might have an interest in cooperating with the police, authorities or other capitalist unions and in keeping agreements with companies.
When our membership gets involved in a struggle, we call it a direct action, because there are no intermediaries who might have an interest in reining in workers to secure their own position and their union’s good relations with authorities and companies.
Any support you get when you’re organized in FAU comes from other workers like you. We don’t organize your struggle for you, but together with you.
As a member of FAU, you decide how you want to deal with the problems at your workplace and what support you need from the union. Other than the large unions which tend to prefer struggles with significant financial or political benefits, there is no action too small nor too big for FAU. We don’t have any paid union officials, no higher committees, no figures of authority that we depend on: we build on the mutual solidarity of our members. We make decisions together. We won’t pressure you to start a militant struggle at your workplace, but we also don’t offer services for individuals. In a self-organized union, you are the union and the union is only as strong as its members.
FAU struggles to defend the rights that the working class has won and pushes for the development of a militant workers’ movement. For a future with an economy based on solidarity and self-government.
A militant union
We are a young and dynamic union. We’re actively working on changing reality. We don’t differentiate between students, unemployed, self-employed, part-time and full-time workers. All are welcome, because we’re all facing the same problems.
We encourage you to observe your workplace: Do you and your coworkers know your rights? What problems do you have? What do you need to solve them?
To get a conversation going, it makes sense to unionize at the workplace and start thinking critically about work relations and our role in them. Only if we organize collectively and resist by using direct action can we begin to make improvements to the situation at the workplace and in our lives.