Yasmin Fahimi, a woman to lead the German unions

The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) took a historic turn this week at its federal congress in Berlin. In it, Yasmin Fahimi was elected as the new president. She is the first woman to occupy the leadership of what is the main German trade union center.

Nearly a dozen workers' organizations make up the DGB, including the powerful IG-Metall, the largest union in the Teutonic industrial sector. The DGB brings together, in total, almost 6 million of the 44 million people who work in Germany, according to the accounts of the German statistical portal Statista. A good 12% of those 44 million workers are members of a DGB union.

Fahimi is a member of the workers' organization IG BCE, which specializes in the construction, chemical and energy sectors. This is the third trade union organization in number of affiliates (close to 600,000), behind Ver.di (about 1.9 million) and IG-Metall (about 2.1 million). The career of this chemist by training, however, is not only associated with union militancy.

Fahimi has also been at the service of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the formation of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In the SPD she briefly became general secretary between 2014 and 2015. The new president of the DGB was elected an SPD deputy in 2017 and, in the last general election in September, she renewed the mandate of her seat in the Bundestag .

Having been elected head of the DGB, however, Fahimi will leave the Lower House of the German Parliament to deal with her new responsibilities. Her head in the Bundestag, Rolf Müntzenich, head of the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Lower House, had received Fahimi's letter of abandonment earlier this week.

It is unthinkable that someone can simultaneously maintain two work fronts such as parliamentary life and the presidency of the DGB. At the DGB, this woman from Hannover, whose father was Iranian and died in a traffic accident when she was a child, will occupy one of the most important positions in economic and social policy in Germany.

Between 2014 and 2022, that position has been held by Reiner Hoffmann. He and a dozen other men served before Fahimi as president of the DGB, founded in 1949, shortly after the end of World War II. The choice of Fahimi, raised with her brother in a single-parent family, has been seen as a decision by the DGB with which to contribute especially to improving the situation of female workers.

In her first speech as the new president of the DGB, Fahimi emphasized that she wants to "advance gender equality in all areas." She has also said that she hopes to make "more visible", among others, immigrant workers and homosexuals active in the union world.

She especially addressed women from the rostrum of the union congress to say: “We women are free. We want bread and roses.” In the German labor market, more women (about 4 million, according to Statista 2020) have a short-time job, which translates into less income than the German average. The number of men with such jobs is just over 3 million.

Fahimi's responsibilities, however, are even more far reaching for workers in Germany, Europe's largest economy and the world's fourth largest. The country of Fahimi is located in a complex process of "decarbonization" that has been greatly affected by Russia's energy dependencies and the war of the Vladimir Putin regime against Ukraine.

The transformations of this process, from which Germany is expected to emerge in 2045 as a neutral country from a climate point of view, require changes in the industrial sector that require "strong unions like never before in the history of the country", as pointed out in one of his recent editorials on Fahimi Anja Krüger, a business journalist for the leftist Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung. It is assumed that the industrial transformations that are to come in Germany endanger many jobs.

In the meantime, retirement, the modernization of the social state or the demand for greater investment are important issues for Fahimi, as is the greater involvement of employees in the life of the companies where they work. "We want more codecision in the economic present of this country," Fahimi said as the new president of the DGB.

In the vote in which he took over that position, 93.2% of the participating trade union representatives showed their support for him. She was the only candidate in the Hoffmann succession. Her predecessor, in fact, clearly bet on her. So much so that these days there were those, such as in the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, who found Fahimi's appointment "doubtful."

Others have already criticized the president of the DGB for her proximity to the SPD. However, Fahimi is also placed on the left of social democracy Germany. The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, in fact, said that she brought "important messages" for the German government.

One of them is that of pacifism, which these days is expressed in the form of skepticism and even rejection of the idea that it is in Germany's interest to rearm itself as Chancellor Scholz wants through a fund of 100,000 million euros to spend on defense and an expenditure of 2% of GDP for these purposes from 2024.

The DGB considers itself "part of the peace movement." As a workers' organization, in the context of "decarbonization" and the threat of crisis imposed by the current times, Fahimi's DGB does not lack social struggles to carry forward, regardless of the geopolitical battles that are being waged outside of Germany.

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