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Labor's Vision of Collective Bargaining (March 1918)

With the passage of the Auxiliary Service Law in 1916, labor unions were allowed to organize in war industries, and collective bargaining agreements were given the force of law for the first time in German history. This document details labor’s vision for collective bargaining in 1918.

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The arrangement of relations between independent business owners, factory owners, and other entrepreneurs, on the one hand, and workers of all types who are employed by them is subject to free agreement. The arrangement is to take place between the elected representatives of the employers and the representatives of clerical employees and workers who are engaged in comparable work. Existing contracts that have been bargained with employer organizations are to be taken into account.


Working conditions that are agreed to in this way have the force of law for all clerical employees, workers, and employers in the occupations affected within a locality, region, or the whole country. However, in individual cases, agreement on improved wages and working-conditions is permissible by means of a special contract.


In order to reach this agreement on working conditions, all employers who employ workers who undertake comparable labor, and the clerical employees and workers whom they employ in individual localities and districts, are to elect from among themselves a like number of representatives. The election is to be by proportional representation. In the case of agreements that are to be valid for all of Germany, the central representative body is to be formed by representatives elected from the districts. Administrative personnel, both from the employers’ and workers’ organizations, can also be elected provided that they do not themselves pursue the occupation in question, either as an employer or as an employee. The representatives are to elect a chairman and a vice-chairman, and for each of these a deputy. If they cannot agree on the chairman, the judge of the trade court in the locality or district, or his representative, is to become chairman. (Depending on the legal stipulations of the chambers of labor, the election of the chairman may be transferred in this case to the chamber of labor.) The suspension or modification of an agreement reached by the representatives requires three months’ notice.


If the employers’ and workers’ representatives cannot agree on the provisions of a contract, or if a strike or lockout threatens for any reason in another occupation, a mediation board is to resolve the dispute. This mediation board shall, to the extent that the proposed law on chambers of labor introduces the institution, be identical with the chamber of labor. The invocation of the mediation board must be pursued in all cases.


Any German citizen who is over the age of twenty-five, is in full possession of his civic rights, and has not been restricted by court order in his ability to dispose of his possessions can represent the parties to a dispute before the mediation board. Whether or not the representative has sufficient standing is to be decided by the mediation board at its own discretion. However, no representative can be rejected on the basis that he is not himself a member of the occupation in question.


By interrogating the representatives of both sides, the mediation board is to establish the points of dispute and the facts on which the case is to be judged. In order to clarify these facts, the board is empowered to summon people who can provide information, to interrogate them, and to put them under oath. Each member of the mediation board has the right to pose questions of both the representatives and the people who provide information.


After the successful clarification of the facts, each side is to be given the opportunity in a common hearing to express its view about what the other side has presented, as well as about the testimony of the people who have given information. At this point, an attempt takes place to reach a settlement between the contending sides.

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