Werner Faymann was born in Vienna, Austria and graduated from grammar school (en‑GB) / high school (en‑US) there. He enrolled at the University of Vienna (jurisprudence, political science, and history of art) but attended just one lecture there without taking any exams. Instead, he worked as a taxi driver.
In 1981, Faymann became provincial chairman of the Socialist Youth Vienna (Sozialistische Jugend Wien). From 1985 to 1988 Faymann was a consultant to the bank Zentralsparkasse der Gemeinde Wien (now UniCredit Bank Austria AG). The bank at the time was closely linked to the municipal government dominated by the Social Democrats. He left the bank to become director and provincial chairman of the Viennese Tenants' counselling. Subsequently, he became a member of the Viennese state parliament and municipal council, where he held various positions concerning housing construction and urban renewal.
Faymann was Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology in the Cabinet of Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. On 16 June 2008 Faymann succeeded Gusenbauer as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and led the party in the snap legislative elections, held on 28 September 2008. The election was famously preceded by Faymann and Gusenbauer announcing a shift in the party's position towards the signing of new EU treaties, which they did by writing an open letter to Hans Dichand, the editor of the yellow press medium Kronen Zeitung. At the time, the Kronen Zeitung was the largest newspaper in the country. The letter caused a scandal within the party, as no party committee had been involved in deciding the shift. The pro-EU Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) cancelled the existing coalition, thus causing the elections. Faymann was known for his good relationship to now-deceased Dichand, who would also support him in the following election campaign. Although the SPÖ lost 11 seats, and had a 6% swing against it (in fact, their worst result since World War II), they came out ahead of their main rivals Austrian People's Party in regard to seats (57 to 51) as well as to share of the vote (29.26% to 25.98%). Afterwards, Faymann renewed the coalition with the Austrian People's Party, as he had announced before the election.