That is why there is no strike in the chemical industry

Dhe calls sound martial: “Factories are turned into barracks” is written on the leaflet from Frankfurt, entrepreneurs, it says, are converting laboratories and spare parts stores into sleeping quarters for strikebreakers. “First break-ins on the employers’ front”, cheers another leaflet from the Hessian chemical union. A third one simply says: “Solidarize! March along! “

Exactly fifty years ago, such and similar calls circulated among workers in the chemical industry. The reason was a four-week strike for higher wages, with plant blockades, police operations, and production stoppages. In the end, the Chancellery and a federal social judge had to mediate.

For Juliane Wiethe and her colleagues from the current works council at Evonik in Darmstadt, the slogans could just as easily be 100 or 500 years old, as far as such slogans should feel to them. Because there has not been a major strike in the chemical industry since 1971, and even the oldest works council members have not seen the last. An eternal peace that would be unthinkable for the railways, auto suppliers or in the public sector.

Improvised strike office in 1971 of the IG Chemie-Papier-Keramik, the forerunner of today's IG BCE


Improvised strike office in 1971 of the IG Chemie-Papier-Keramik, the forerunner of today’s IG BCE
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Image: Evonik Industries AG, Hanau corporate archive

Possible reasons for this can be found in a new exhibition and the accompanying book that the archivists of the chemical company Evonik have compiled. The exhibition on 120 years of co-determination at Evonik has been on view in the Darmstadt plant since Monday, and later it will also move to other Group locations. The Evonik corporate archive has evaluated numerous sources to document what the practice of co-determination looked like in the five predecessor companies of Evonik, which include the industrial chemicals producer Degussa from Frankfurt and the Darmstadt leather stain manufacturer Röhm & Haas.

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