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Protests Merging: Public Transport Workers and Climate Activists in Germany Look Past Their Differences

In many provinces of Germany, climate activists and public transport workers have started working together towards their shared goal: having their voices heard. Even though these groups seem to be walking different paths, their end goal is the same. At their core, what these groups truly desire is representation, and together they intend to achieve it.

The movement, which has been in the making since 2022, is organized by one of the largest organizations for public transport workers, Verdi, and the climate activism movement Fridays for Future. Verdi is working to support transportation workers internationally, with large efforts in Germany. Fridays for Future is a youth-focused activism movement that fights to oppose climate change. Verdi claims that currently, the public transportation workers’ working conditions are vile with very little time to spend with their families and few weekends off of work. They usually can’t even take bathroom breaks in peace and are treated horribly by passengers, which leads to regular strikes. With the strikes taking place so often, people have to use individual vehicles more and therefore, the usage of public transportation lessens. This is where climate activists get involved: they believe that in order to truly achieve sustainability, public transportation must be prioritized, and with the current working conditions, the public transportation workers aren’t content, hence resulting in inefficient sustainability movements. The organizers of the strikes believe that neither group can achieve their goals unless they work together, but not all activists or transport workers agree with the sentiment.

Ilhan, a bus driver in Germany, stated that he used to think climate activists were “selfish” and “privileged”, and even got mad at them at times for slowing down his bus. However, with the impact of this new collusion, often referred to by the hashtag #WeDriveTogether, he realized that they shared the same advocacy spirit and accepted them as their allies in their strikes. Not everyone was this easily convinced, though. Sandra, a worker for the administration of public transport workers and a member of Verdi, stated that she “wasn’t a fan of Fridays for Future”, or other climate activism movements for that matter, and that she was “critical” of their measures. She even considered not coming to one of the first organized protests, but showed up out of loyalty for the drivers nonetheless. On the other hand, one of Sandra’s colleagues, Eric, said that he didn’t understand the “partly hostile attitude” towards the collusion between the groups and stated his satisfaction with the joining of forces towards a common cause. Although there are mixed opinions on the matter, most participants regard the movement as a source of incentive for ameliorating their conditions, whether it be climate change or weekend breaks.

Altogether, when the conditions that surround the groups’ chosen issues of advocacy are worsening with extreme heat waves and droughts on one end, and transport workers being treated terribly on the other, it is important that the organizations find allies, which is exactly what Verdi and Fridays for Future are aiming to do. The alliance has undoubtedly sparked conversation, which fits these groups’ aims. In order to get people from different groups to talk about them, they decided to join their forces, and succeeded. Although Fridays for Future reached its peak of relevance a few years ago, they still have strategies to strike conversation, and forming alliances is one of them. Fridays for Future and Verdi’s shared goal of promoting working conditions for public transport workers - whether it be for the workers’ sake or with the end goal of decreasing individual vehicle emissions in mind - can be achieved easiest by merging, and the group leaders see that, no matter what others have to say. With a little acquaintance, the groups can easily become supportive of each other and their respective ideals, as seen in the case of Ilhan who eventually changed his mind about Fridays for Future. At the end of the day, these groups mutually desire representation, and there is no reason why that shouldn’t be enough to bring them together.

Works Cited

2024, 01 Mar, et al. “Climate Protesters in Germany Join Forces with Public Transport Workers to Push for Change.” Clean Energy Wire, 1 Mar. 2024

“Fridays for Future Is an International Climate Movement Active in Most Countries and Our Website Offers Information on Who We Are and What You Can Do.” Fridays For Future, 5 Aug. 2023

“Ver.Di International.” Zur Ver.Di Startseite

“‘Two Worlds Colliding’: Berlin Transport Workers and Climate Activists Unite over Rights.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Mar. 2024


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