Friday, 25 January 2008

‘Germany needs Jobs with Justice coalitions’

In order to facilitate a durable collaboration of trade unions and community organisations, Germany should create local coalitions inspired by the American Jobs with Justice (JwJ) initiatives, suggests Wilfried Schwetz in an article in the German labour magazine Express. Besides helping bring about social justice, such coalitions could boost trade union renewal.
The main task of JwJ coalitions is to support workers in their struggle for their rights as workers, with special focus on the right to form a union and/or to establish a works council. They do so by helping unions in corporate campaigns or organizing efforts of union hostile employers. Getting municipalities to adopt socially responsible contracting guidelines is part of it.
JwJ is a ‘network and action group at the same time’, in which both individuals and organisations can participate. Participants are asked to commit to supporting social campaigns at least five times a year. “Such a self-imposed obligation makes both activism and solidarity a bit more binding than usual and helps to create a pool of activists”, Schwetz explains.
In America, there are JwJ coalitions in 40 cities and in 25 states. They have successfully contributed to living wage campaigns and other initiatives.
JwJ uses Workers’ Rights Boards, consisting of people with moral authority, as a means to address workplace injustices. Schwetz and his colleague Thomas Greven have pioneered a Bürgerkomitee in Hannover to support Continental workers. Schwetz’ current proposal is to create more durable structures.
JwJ coalitions in Germany might address issues such as privatisation and the ‘1 euro jobs’. A practical issue is to come up with a militant-sounding German name for the coalitions. Schwetz suggests ‘Gerechtigkeit am Arbeitsplatz’ or ‘Arbeit mit Würde’, but is not yet satisfied: ‘alles keine Knaller’.

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