Last Saturday, a flash mob hit the Kaufhof department store in Stuttgart in support of the 600 to 1,000 striking retail workers in the city. According to a report on LabourNet.de, almost 100 activists turned the store’s shoe department into chaos, “and it will definitely take long before all the matching shoe models and sizes have been sorted out again”. People took their time at the checkout, causing long waiting lines, only to decide not to purchase their article after all. They insisted on trying on all the 300-plus euro leather jackets and filled up fitting rooms with unfolded shirts.
The Stuttgart flash mob seems to have been inspired by the shop-ins of the 1960s civil rights and welfare rights movements. Exactly who was responsible for the flash mob, is unclear. In December last year, a Berlin labour court banned trade union Ver.di from organising flash mobs, because these would amount to illegal boycott actions.
Retail employers want to abolish overtime payment and to introduce even more flexible working hours. Ver.di wants these plans off the table and an end to retail workers being paid poverty wages.
There have been strikes at shops including H&M and Zara. In Stuttgart, about one thousand striking workers, family members and supporters formed a human chain to support the workers. Ver.di has announced that the fight will continue until an acceptable agreement has been reached and plans to escalate the actions by mid-February.