Organization As Solidarity: African Migrant Workers in Germany

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Faisal GARBA MUHAMMED, University of Cape Town, South Africa
This paper looks at the experience of a group of African workers that established and lead a works’ council in a firm based in Frankfurt, Germany. It is ordinary for shop stewards of the works council to extend (informal) solidarity to other workplaces by passing on ideas and lessons onto African workers in the various work places in the city of Frankfurt. The paper looks at what this form of direct worker-to-worker-experience-sharing means for labour organizing in a setting where the working class is deeply racially segregated in a climate of constant threats of retrenchment faced by migrant workers as firms close down or downsize. The paper traces the strategies, social formations and vision of alternatives that the workers construct within the works council and in places they frequent such as mosques, churches and African shops.

The paper will probe beyond the media and popular image of African migration as headlined by rickety, ever-ready-to-drown boats ferrying desperate women, children and men across high-seas with the ominous consequence of swamping and worsening the plight of a crisis-ridden Europe. It will show that the constant desperation that defines the reality of African workers occupying the margins of European society is muted by this outlook. Neither is it grasped by the celebratory tone of glocalization, pluralism and globalization from below. Also not revealed, in spite of works of thick ethnographic description of the lives of African migrants in Europe, is the implication that the determination to seek an alternative livelihood and life, has for their resistance in the workplace and in the larger society against narrow, self-contained notions of territoriality and belonging prevalent in Europe.