Daimler's Works Council Claims Company Is Being 'Infiltrated by Nazis'
On Wednesday, Daimler’s German workers union publicly expressed concerns that neo-Nazis are trying to organize within the automaker’s ranks. While it did not specify which political groups were involved, it named several individuals from the Untertürkheim Mercedes-Benz plant in southern Germany and described the overall situation as “not acceptable.”
The works council believes Nazis are currently using Zentrum Automobil, an alternative labor union formed in 2009, as a base of operations to infiltrate the factory and placed several of its members on its board. “The Untertürkheim plant now appears in the media as a reservoir for neo-Nazis and a center of right-wing extremist activities,” explained members opposing the supposed infiltration.
That’s not great publicity for a German automaker with a rich history dating back through the Second World War. However, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that the term “Nazi” currently gets thrown around more than a frisbee at a picnic. Are the claims valid?
Zentrum Automobil’s website certainly doesn’t express anything that might indicate a racial bent. Instead, it positions itself as an alternative to Germany’s established unions — which it claims are in close cooperation with manufacturers and don’t have the backs of those they purport to protect. It suggests “big unions (like IG Metall) are so closely linked to the political elite” that they have no solution to the problems associated with globalization, and are part of the overall problem facing today’s workers. This could be a case of more-powerful labor unions feeling threatened by an upstart and crying “Nazi” in the hopes of destroying it before it gains any more momentum.
However, for the past few months German media has suggested Zentrum has political ties to “extremist movements.” Most notable among them is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which recently surpassed the Social Democrats (SPD) to become the country’s second strongest political party, according to polling from earlier this week. The AfD grew in popularity after mass immigration of young men resulted in a 10.4-percent increase in violent crimes between 2015 and 2016. The party is best known for its “controversially” harsh stance against Islam and immigration.
Simultaneously, Handelsblatt reported at least four of the Untertürkheim works council members from Zentrum Automobil have attended AfD and Pegida rallies and held previous membership in Wiking-Jugend (Viking Youth) and Kreuzritter für Deutschland (Crusader for Germany) neo-Nazi groups. Both organizations were outlawed as unconstitutional by the German government in 1994.
“The right-wing activities and the entanglements in neo-Nazi actions and organizations and the related public coverage are causing substantial damage to labor representation and through this are threatening our jobs,” the works council said in an official statement.
Staff at Daimler, Volkswagen, and other manufacturers are scheduled to elect new labor representatives over the next three months, and management and unions are keen to quench any extremist activity. Daimler announced its opposition to any “far right activity” within its workforce and would monitor developments closely. “We stand by the liberal, democratic basic order and expect all employees to live tolerance in their daily work and to act together with respect, openness, faith and fairness,” the automaker said.
[Image: National Archives]
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