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The Right of Codetermination and the Right to Strike: Letter from Konrad Adenauer to Hans Böckler, Chairman of the Confederation of German Trade Unions, and Böckler’s Response (1950)

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The German unions have repeatedly informed the Bundestag and the federal government, as well as the public, of their views on economic democracy and their corresponding wishes. They continue to stand by their demands, because they see in their realization the only guarantee of our country’s democratic development and secure future.

In your letter, you advanced the opinion that a sense of justice and the legal system have afforded workers the right to strike only in matters concerning the collective bargaining contract. I cannot agree with that view.

In this context, I would like to point to Article IX, Section 3 of the Basic Law, which grants workers the right to associate in order to safeguard and improve their economic and working conditions. Thus, workers are granted the right not only to organize for the purpose of regulating wage and work conditions but also to create economic conditions that support their ideas and interests. Paragraph 4 of the collective bargaining law of the Economic Council of April 9, 1949, also states that in addition to matters concerning the operation of factories, matters regarding the works constitution can also be subject to regulation under collective bargaining agreements. The works constitution, however, must be understood as referring to the totality of the rules governing the legal status of workers in a factory, including their position vis-à-vis the employer. Without a doubt, the rules governing the legal status of factory workers include the right of codetermination, not only with regard to social and personal matters but also to economic conditions.

The main committee of the German Metalworkers’ Union, much like the main committee of the German Mining Union, is in full agreement with the national board of the Federation of German Trade Unions, and thus also with me, on the question of the right of codetermination.

[ . . . ]

Source: Christoph Kleßmann, Die doppelte Staatsgründung. Deutsche Geschichte 1945-1955 [The Founding of Two States. German History 1945-1955]. Göttingen, 1982, pp. 485-86.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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