This is a story that does not have an end yet. The BAUEN hotel is possibly one of the best-known experiences of labor self-management in the world, a symbol of the ability of the workers to not only manage a company, but to take their fate into their own hands. It does not have an end, because the story is not over. As this book went to press, a new eviction order against the cooperative, issued by judge Paula María Hualde, was pending on the hotel. Earlier, December 26, 2016, President Mauricio Macri had vetoed the expropriation law that, after fourteen years of struggle, workers had finally gotten approved by both houses of Congress, in two anguishing sessions separated by almost a year of waiting. That Presidential veto set up the situation in which this book came to be.
The immediate result of this highly complex situation, perhaps the most difficult one the members of the cooperative have been through in a history that has had no shortage of difficult moments, is not going to substantially change what is told here, which is the long struggle of a group of workers who have written several pages in the rich history of the Argentine workers’ movement. They have become a point of reference for self-management, for our country, for France, Greece, and Mexico. The story of the BAUEN has similarities to that of other recovered businesses, but also several differences that need to be highlighted. Like most of the protagonists of the approximately 370 businesses recovered by workers in Argentina, they have been through anguishing moments, times of struggle and resistance, but also of happiness, collective building, creativity, and solidarity. But the difference is an obsession with putting an end to this cooperative, especially on the part economic and judicial powers, who join with the unmediated political power of the Cambiemos Alliance in the current government. So, the crux of this book is not so much the experience of management within the cooperative, but the stubborn struggle that its members have maintained from the very beginning against this immense power.
The story of the Bauen begins in the most tragic period in our recent history, the civilian-military dictatorship that was inflicted on our people between 1976 and 1983. A dark network of interests and maneuvers defined the profile of businesses in the “contractor homeland” and the economic groups that grew and profited from being cozy with the dictatorship. The Iurcovich group, which founded the Bauen SACIC, is one of them, a little cousin of larger ones, like the Macri group. The Bauen was, until its closure in December of 2001, the hotel of power.
And now, since its recovery by the cooperative, it is the workers’ hotel, the people’s hotel. This is its story.