In the ongoing labor struggle at the Gorillas delivery service, we have provided political, logistical and financial support in recent months. In doing so, we have also tried to open political debates about the strategy for winning the struggle and building a class-struggle movement in the unions. In particular, we are concerned with the question of the attitude left organizations and workers should take toward bureaucratic trade union structures.
In this context, we have initiated discussions with the strikers, at supporters‘ meetings and on our website, including with the Free Workers‘ Union (FAU) and the aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V.. Debates like these happen far too rarely and should be a common practice among leftists.
As a result, we were legally attacked by aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V.: after an article of ours was published, which is to be understood as part of the mentioned discussion. We received a warning and a cease-and-desist letter from their lawyer. To clarify upfront: We had mistakes in our report and that upsets us very much. But we also want to say: Such warnings and threats of legal action we firmly reject inside the workers movement and among leftists; differences of opinion should be settled without the intervention of the bourgeois justice system or the state.
We have published a corrective statement. The aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. nevertheless insists that we should pay their legal fees of 800 Euros.
Money, which would be much better served to the strike fund of Gorillas in our opinion. To ensure that the gorillas‘ struggle does not suffer as a result of this monetary demand, we are calling for donations to cover the legal fees: 50 percent of the donation will be used to cover the legal fees. 50 percent goes into the Gorillas strike fund.
What exactly happened?
In our article „Gorillas: How do we fight the layoffs? On the Need to Break Isolation,“ we discuss the perspective of the labor struggle at Gorillas. In particular, we argue that during the mass layoffs by management in early October, „an assembly of all those laid off and still employed at Gorillas [should] also put pressure on the ver.di leadership so they support the struggle with all their means. After all, some ver.di members are also among those laid off. It would be a huge mistake to divide the colleagues between those who have been laid off and those who continue to work, or on the basis of their affiliation with ver.di or the FAU or their lack of union membership. This is exactly the division that the Gorillas management wants to achieve. It is all the more important that all organizations that have accompanied and supported the struggle so far work together to build such an assembly and a plan of struggle against the layoffs. […] [This also means] not to be satisfied with the fact that a few dozen colleagues are active in the Gorillas Workers Collective, but to set all levers in motion so that all workers and all dismissed colleagues discuss and decide together in assemblies how the struggle can be continued. This also includes fighting to ensure that ver.di, with its two million members, takes up the fight at Gorillas until the end.“
In this context, we also made references to the positions of other left organizations in te struggle. In particular, we criticize what we consider to be an overly timid attitude toward the leadership of the major DGB unions such as ver.di. We believe that strikers and supporters must impose a united front on the bureaucratic union apparatuses in order to challenge their leadership on a political and organisational level – which, in the case of Gorillas, would mean working aggressively to get ver.di to support the struggle with all available means.
In this discussion, we misrepresented the position of aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. concerning the participation of ver.di members in the Gorillas struggle. This was corrected by our editorial staff on November 5 and, in addition, a correction was formulated.
However, there was no personal contact beforehand with the request to correct the mistake. Instead, we received an unannounced warning letter from a lawyer on October 29 – two days before a large supporters‘ meeting on the fight against the 350 layoffs at Gorillas, which we were involved in preparing, mobilizing and organizing – with a request to sign a cease-and-desist letter. In addition, the cease-and-desist letter is accompanied by the costs for the lawyer’s services: In this case, the law firm commissioned by aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. demanded payment from us of originally 1,295.43 euros (this demand was later reduced to 800 euros).
We consider this procedure disproportionate and unacceptable. Within the left and the workers movement we should be allowed to criticize each other freely and to clarify differences of opinion among ourselves. In the process, mistakes can happen, which we always want to avoid if possible. However, we think that these mistakes should also be discussed among ourselves in solidarity and corrected, as in our case. We think it is wrong to call in lawyers, especially without talking to each other first. In our opinion, such a procedure should not become routine. Or should left-wing and workers‘ organizations in the future always send lawyers on each other to clarify problems among themselves?
Likewise we consider it unacceptable that the aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. published a press release on their website a few days after the lawyer’s warning on November 4, in which it accuses us of „dirty methods“ and asks us to correct the misrepresentation – we complied with this request on November 5 – but without mentioning the detail that it had already called in a law firm, which sent us a penalty-based cease-and-desist letter including lawyer’s fees.
A better method would have been to publicly present the different positions – real or misunderstood – on the role of unions in the struggle in front of all strikers and supporters. Then those involved could see the debate for themselves and draw their own conclusions. We have always made our positions and proposals known in articles, but also, for example, at the aforementioned large supporters‘ meeting on October 30 and at the Gorillas Soli demonstration on November 16, which we and many other groups helped to organize.
Our correction was finally accepted by the aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. on November 15. Also at this point the withdrawal of the lawyer cost demand on the part of the aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. would have been still possible – in particular in the context of the Gorillas fight, in which both the aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. and we are active, and which needs further financial support. Because no large DGB trade union calls to the fight, the workers also get no strike money. They have therefore been financing themselves for a long time with a strike fund, which we have also supported to date with around 1,500 euros through fundraising and our own contributions.
All the more absurdly it seems to us that now we have to pay 800 euro for their lawyer due to this warning of aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V., which we could invest just as well into the support of the Gorillas fight or other fights in the future. The lawyer costs of aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. would not have been incurred at all, by the way, if they had simply talked to us.
Unfortunately, aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. did not agree to each side paying their own legal fees and insisted that we pay their law firm. So we had no choice but to pay the 800 euros. In addition, we have to pay the costs for our lawyer, also 800 euros.
Donate for our legal fees – and the gorillas‘ fight!
Strengthening the struggle of the gorillas workers is still central for us and should be the focus here. Especially here the necessity is visible to involve as many groups as possible in this struggle.
On the one side politically, to strengthen the struggle and to put pressure on the DGB leadership to support this struggle offensively, without making the membership of the colleagues in a DGB union a condition beforehand. On the other side, as already mentioned, also financially. We would wish that also aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. recognizes this aspect. The money is invested more useful with the gorilla employees.
We call on aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. here once again to refrain from such action in the future – not only towards us but also towards other left-wing and trade union organizations. We should not weaken each other politically and financially, but discuss in solidarity how we can build militant unions. This requires an open exchange of political positions instead of lawyerly injunctions – not least so that struggling workers can draw their own conclusions.
Both aktion ./. arbeitsunrecht e.V. and we repeatedly support similar actions and struggles. Thus, we have often participated together in actions in the past, such as the „Black Friday“ actions or the struggle at wombats – and we want to continue to do so. We hardly need to mention that 1600 Euros is a lot of money for us. KlasseGegenklasse.org is an independent medium and is supported entirely by volunteers. None of us earn money with this project. We are to a large part precarious students, employees and apprentices, who do not have much money for disposal anyway.
Furthermore, we work independently of parties and foundations. We are financed exclusively by contributions from our members or small donations from supporters. That’s why 1600 Euros is not a small amount for us.
We want to build a political alternative to the capitalist state and corporate power. What we need, however, are common fronts against the attacks on the living and working conditions of workers and not against eachother through legal disputes.
The gorillas‘ struggle should not suffer from this demand for money, so we are calling for donations to cover our lawyers‘ fees. 50 percent of the donation will be used to cover the lawyers‘ fees. 50 percent goes into the Gorillas strike fund.