The Hotel Bauen is a recuperated business located at 360 Callao Avenue in Buenos Aires run collectively by its workers, serving both as a hotel and as a free meeting place for Argentine leftist and workers' groups. It is also used as a personal residence by some of the worker-owners.
Inaugurated in 1978, the four-star establishment received generous government subsidies in anticipation of the 1978 FIFA World Cup, which took place in Buenos Aires that June. The original owner, Marcelo Iurcovich, received 37 million USD for its development in 1976 from the Banco Nacional de Desarollo (BANADE), a state-owned business lender later absorbed into the Banco de la Nación Argentina. Tourism in Argentina subsequently suffered from the effects of the military dictatorship's Dirty War and the collapse of its economic policies, however. The hotel's finances worsened further after the opening of a number of newer, competing hotels in the 1990s, and during the crisis that developed in the early 2000s. In the wake of the December riots in 2001, and after systematic firings, the Hotel Bauen was closed on December 28.
In March 2003, with the help of the Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (National Movement of Recovered Businesses, MNER), the hotel's former employees occupied the building. While fighting for ownership through activism and negotiation, they began repairs to the building and slowly re-opened business. Since then, the Bauen cooperative has gained 150 workers, inaugurated a streetfront café (whose tile floors come from FaSinPat, a worker-controlled ceramics factory) and equipped more than 200 hotel rooms. Today the Hotel Bauen boasts rising profits, and is a center of cultural and political activity in Buenos Aires.
However, the long term legality of the worker's ownership and operation is ambiguous. On October 21, 2005, the hotel was informed that, while a legal right of former employees to keep residence in the hotel was recognized, they were not permitted to function as a business. Upon delivery of this notice, entrances were closed off with official tape, but this tape was quickly removed by hotel workers, and business operations continue today.
In May 2006, Judge Carla Cavaliere officially approved the suspension of the closure order. Workers can now move freely and legally in and out of the hotel. What remains to be determined is who is to be considered the official owner of the hotel. A bill of expropriation, the Ley Nacional de Expropiación, which would definitively entitle the Bauen workers to ownership of the hotel, has already been drafted and is being considered at the municipal and federal levels. Sponsored by Deputy Victoria Donda in the National Congress, the bill is being opposed by the original owners, led by Marcelo Iurcovich, and supported by the Bauen Cooperative, who are circulating a petition in support of the bill.
- Hotel B.A.U.E.N Cooperativa de trabajo (cooperative website)
- D.I.Y. Argentina CampusProgress.org, 2005
- Argentina’s Worker-Run Hotel Bauen