The Zentrum Automobil union is raising concerns in the automobile industry and with politicians in southern Germany for its increasing neo-nazi rhetoric and influence among the workers.
Leading members of the Zentrum Automobil workers union have shown sympathy for Hitler and his Nazi ideology, sometimes in very explicit ways, according to German journals Report Mainz, Stern and Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
The union represents workers at a Mercedez Benz plant in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany, that is operated by the Daimler car manufacturing company.
They promote themselves as an “alternative labor union,” trying to draw supporters from Germany's leading industrial workers' union IG Metall.
“The IG Metall promises a lot, but the situation keeps getting worse. What we need now is a political alternative for the working space of all our colleagues,” said Zentrum Automobil in one of their most recent promotional videos.
Daimler has already expressed its concerns about the rise of far-right union leaders and its participation in the Mercedes Benz workers' council in Untertürkheim, where they have four elected members. They claim several neo-nazi groups and individuals are trying to infiltrate them, biggest car producer in Germany, using the "alternative labor union" face.
"The works council of Untertuerkheim categorically opposes such an abuse of labor council mandates for right-wing goals and purposes," Daimler declared.
Now, Zentrum Automobil is trying to expand their influence by promoting candidates for the BMW and Audi workers' councils.
The union keeps its official language moderate, but its leading members show a face that's worrying local politicians and Daimler's central board.
The former chairman of Zentrum Automobil Andreas Brandmeier reportedly sent an email including a swastika and the words “The German greeting is Heil Hitler” to members, according to Report Mainz and Stern.
Brandmeier refused to comment about the emails, but the founder of the union, Oliver Hilburger, declared they were “definitely and obviously a falsification.”
The recipient of the email, however, claims his declarations are accurate and handed German press a copy of the exchanged emails. He keeps his identity undisclosed but says he is a former member of the Zentrum Automobil union.
Hilburger is the former guitar player for the neo-Nazi rock band Noie Werte, which sang about Hitler and Rudolf Hess. “They call them nazi songs, but we see them in a different way,” said Hilburger denying accusations.
Sascha Woll is one of the union's promoted candidates for next month workers' council's elections. His wife testified that Woll was a member of the “Crusades for Germany” far-right skinhead group during the 1990s in Stuttgart.