Who we are and why we do, what we do
Many of us have experiences with bad working conditions. Many of us are made fun of and taken advantage of by our bosses. They are even more capable of this if we are not aware of our rights in the workplace. We have organized ourselves in the FAU to fight back. In the FAU we fight together for better working and living conditions, and we educate ourselves together about our rights and possibilities for action.
We come from different work sectors and different countries. So our experiences are very diverse. That gives us a variety of skills and resources. Some of us have been active in union struggles for years, others are new to it and thus bring new perspectives and ideas. Our diversity makes us strong.
We work on multiple levels: We offer individual, practical support and advice on minor problems, such as collecting wages and vacation pay. We work on collective solidarity campaigns over the long term. We help our members to organize in the factories and fight for better conditions. Our members are directly involved in these activities. You can get involved too!
The FAU is a combative union. That is the basic principle in everything we do. We are convinced: if we workers unite, we ourselves can change our lives the best. Let’s take back the power from the capitalist system and the daily work that so oppressively determines our lives!
Short history of the FAU
The FAU was originally a reconstitution of the FAUD, the largest anarcho-syndicalist trade union in Germany at the time, which was dissolved in 1933 in the wake of the Nazis’ rise to power. At its peak, the FAUD had about 150,000 members. Since its founding in 1977, the FAU has grown and developed continuously. We are a dynamic, radical union – we can adapt quickly and respond to changes in the world of work with new forms of action.
The world today
Working conditions are constantly changing, often to the benefit of bosses and their profits, and usually to the detriment of workers. Companies are constantly finding new ways to circumvent the rights that workers around the world have fought for. Buzzwords like “flexibility” and phrases like “be your own boss” in the end often mean unpaid overtime, no paid vacation, and no health insurance.
Social benefits, pensions, health care and wages are being cut, health insurance, taxes and rents are becoming more expensive – precisely for those who have the fewest resources and need the benefits the most. We are expected to work longer hours, for less pay, in unsafe conditions. And we are supposed to be grateful that we have any opportunity at all to sell our labor for any wage.
Competition in the capitalist labor market leads some of us to behave in a way that lacks solidarity with our colleagues and to treat others under foot. When we see others suffering, we should not blame them, their lifestyle, their wrong priorities, their “laziness” or weakness. Instead, we should look at the bigger picture: How the way society is organized affects a person’s opportunities and choices.
The FAU provides a place where we workers can come together. Where we can learn to understand the problems in our workplaces. It only takes one small step to realize how similar our problems are as wage earners, both here locally and around the world.
Die FAU and other unions
Why does it make sense to organize in the FAU instead of (or in addition to) ver.di, IG Metall or another DGB union?
Our fundamental principle is self-organization. The FAU is organized as a grassroots trade union. This means that the basis makes the decisions. That is all members together. Unlike DGB unions, we do not have a hierarchical structure of functionaries, some of whom even identify with companies and their goals in a “social partnership” manner.
When our members take action in a conflict, we call it “direct action” because there is no intermediate body that has an interest in capping workers’ anger so that their own position and their union’s good relations with authorities and companies are not jeopardized.
The support you get in the FAU comes from other wage workers like you. We don’t organize struggles for you, but with you. As an FAU member, you decide how to deal with the problems at your workplace and what support you need.
We have no paid officials, no higher committees, no authority figures on whom we depend: We build on the mutual solidarity of our members. We make all decisions together. We don’t pressure you to open a militant confrontation at your workplace, but we don’t provide services either. In a self-organized union, we are the union, and the union is only as strong as its members.
The FAU fights to defend the rights won by the working class, and at the same time we push forward the development of a militant workers’ movement. For a future with a social and economic order based on solidarity and self-management.
A combative union
For us, there is no separation between students, unemployed, self-employed, full-time and part-time employees. All are welcome because we all face similar problems and should not be pitted against each other. We want to encourage you to observe your workplace: Do you, do your colleagues actually know your rights? What problems are you facing? What do you need to solve them?
To even begin to talk about this, it makes sense to organize collectively in the workplace and critically engage with the world of work and our roles within it. Only by organizing and resisting together can we begin to make a positive change in our workplaces and in our lives.