Judge Upholds Boycott Ban on FAU Berlin

On February 16, 2010, The regional labor court of Berlin confirmed that the FAU (Free Workers' Union) Berlin can't call for a boycott of the Babylon Mitte Cinema. In October 2009, the same court had issued an injunction against the boycott at the behest of the cinema's bosses.

The boycott was a part of a year-old labor dispute between the Babylon and FAU Berlin members who work there - their goal being better working conditions and labor contracts. The judge, Dr Rancke, found that the FAU Berlin was not allowed to call for job action in labor disputes because it was not "mighty" enough. In Germany, unions must display a certain degree of "social might" (the amount of which is decided by judges) before they can sign labor contracts and take job action without fear of legal retribution. If a union's particular form of social might isn't accounted for in case law, which is true for the anarcho-syndicalist FAU, the union must sue for the right to take job action and sign contracts - a lengthy and costly procedure. The judge admitted that the FAU Berlin's might, might have forced the Babylon to sign a labor contract with ver.di (a union representing service workers, which has few members in the Babylon), but that he did not have the power to determine this. The judge explained that German Law - as opposed to many other countries - does not allow for "small, dexterous unions".

In the meanwhile, the case of the FAU Berlin has reached a wider audience. The hearing at the regional labor court had to be moved to a bigger room because of the crowd. Two days earlier - on Valentine's day - unionists and civil rights activists launched a petition that calls for the workers' freedom of association to be defended and the ban on the FAU Berlin's union activities to be lifted. The FAU Berlin will stage a demonstration on the 20th of February in Berlin to highlight the fact that workers should decide how they organize, not the state.

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