Workers from the BAUEN hotel and hundreds of supporters marched on December 15 to the city legislature to demand that Buenos Aires mayor annul a law to return the hotel to the former management. Meanwhile, rock groups are performing a series of mega-concert in defense of the BAUEN cooperative and other recuperated factories in Argentina tonight.
The employees from the BAUEN Hotel, worker self-managed since 2003 rallied throughout this month to pressure the Buenos Aires city government to veto a law in favor of putting the hotel back into the hands of the former owner. On December 7, the city legislature passed a law to evict the workers from the hotel and return the hotel to the former management that shut down the 20-story hotel in 2001. As an initiative from the right wing-power bloc, the law intends to force the cooperative to negotiate with the former management.
During last week’s vote police violently dispersed members of the BAUEN cooperative who were protesting against the proposed bill. Police shot tear gas and beat workers with night batons inside city hall while they tried to enter the salon to participate in the late night senate session.
Just weeks earlier, during the Summit on the Americas, the right-wingers in city hall tried to sneak through a law in favor of the former owner. The debate and vote of the bill went unannounced. The right-wing hoped that the bill would go unnoticed while the “left” were busy rallying against President George Bush’s visit to Argentina. However, the workers quickly reacted. They forced their way into the central auditorium and broke up the senate session.
The workers argue that the former owner, Marcelo Iurcovich, shut down the hotel fraudulently and never paid taxes or debts. The hotel was built with public funds in 1978, during the height of the military dictatorship. Since the workers re-opened the hotel in 2003 they’ve created over 140 jobs and renovated the abandoned space.
Gerardo Pensavalle, worker participating in the cooperative’s press commission says that the cooperative is managing the hotel for the benefit of all workers. “BAUEN is the very heart of the struggle for recuperated enterprises. We act in solidarity with all of the workers’ struggles. At the same time they support us. If they mess with BAUEN they mess with all of us. Here’s where all the social organizations meet. We go to support other struggles. We not only defending 140 jobs, but fighting, for a different Argentina.”
Even rock stars are bringing the struggle of the BAUEN cooperative into the mainstream. Spanish rock veterans Reincidentes and Argentine punk icons Ataque 77 performed a massive stadium concert as a gesture of support for the worker managed hotel on December 16. Ataque-77 has even written a song called setentistas dedicated to the workers recuperating their work places.
Before the concert the rockers gave a special press conference at the BAUEN hotel. In the interview, the musicians expressed their explicit support for the workers recovering their workplaces to defend their jobs.
Ciro Pertusi, from Ataque, said that the employees at BAUEN and worker-controlled ceramics factory Zanon have become heroes. “With the song sententistas, it made me believe in humanity again. The people at Zanon have something that’s very human, a motivation which is love and commitment to a race. But not a race that’s going to conquest and pollute.” Ataque-77 has already performed a number of concerts for Zanon in Neuquen.
On the night of the stadium concert, a group of workers from Zanon and BAUEN got on stage and sent a very important message to the some 6,000 fans (mostly teenagers): “Workers can successfully run a business without a boss, with increased and more egalitarian incomes.” During the rock festival workers premiered their own music video. A group of workers from the cooperative’s press commission edited images of work and rallies to accompany the song “sententistas.”
The massive concerts have been very effective in generating support for the recuperated enterprises. The concerts have received major news attention from media-outlets reluctant to publish news about the recuperated enterprises. This week, the national daily Pagina-12, published a two-page spread on the BAUEN cooperative and the support of Ataque-77 and Reincidentes.
Last December, more than 11,000 fans and supporters attended a concert featuring folk musician guru, Leon Gieco in Zanon’s stock lot. “When I compose a song, I hope that what the lyrics say becomes true. Performing at the Zanon factory that’s producing under worker control is proof that through culture we can create a new reality.”
This year Mega-Rock band La Renga will be playing a year-end concert in Zanon. The 460 workers from the worker controlled factory self-organized the event-building the massive stage, putting up posters and selling the low-cost tickets.
Along with defending jobs, the recuperated enterprises are also creating a new culture. Music has had a major part in this struggle for a working-class culture. As the lead bass player for Ataque-77 put it: “we’re trying to show today’s youth that fighting against injustices can be fun and filled with happiness.”
Marie Trigona is an activist, video maker and writer.
She can be reached at: [email protected]