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The (Parlous) State of German Unions

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  • Addison, John T.

    () (University of South Carolina)

  • Schnabel, Claus

    () (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

  • Wagner, Joachim

    () (Leuphana University Lüneburg)

Abstract

This paper traces the profound decline in German unionism over the course of the last three decades. Today just one in five workers is a union member, and it is now moot whether this degree of penetration is consistent with a corporatist model built on encompassing unions. The decline in union membership and density is attributable to external forces that have confronted unions in many countries (such as globalization and compositional changes in the workforce) and to some specifically German considerations (such as the transition process in post-communist Eastern Germany) and sustained intervals of classic insider behavior on the part of German unions. The 'correctives' have included mergers between unions, decentralization, and wages that are more responsive to unemployment. At issue is the success of these innovations. For instance, the trend toward decentralization in collective bargaining hinges in part on the health of that other pillar of the dual system of industrial relations, the works council. But works council coverage has also declined, leading some observers to equate decentralization with deregulation. While this conclusion is likely too radical, German unions are at the cross roads. It is argued here that if they fail to define what they stand for, are unable to increase their presence at the workplace, and continue to lack convincing strategies to deal with contemporary economic and political trends working against them, then their decline may become a rout.

Suggested Citation

  • Addison, John T. & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2006. "The (Parlous) State of German Unions," IZA Discussion Papers 2000, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2000
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John T. Addison & Claus Schnabel & Joachim Wagner, 2004. "The Course of Research into the Economic Consequences of German Works Councils," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 42(2), pages 255-281, June.
    2. Martin Beck & Bernd Fitzenberger, 2004. "Changes in Union Membership Over Time: A Panel Analysis for West Germany," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 18(3), pages 329-362, September.
    3. Christoph Knoppik & Thomas Beissinger, 2003. "How Rigid are Nominal Wages? Evidence and Implications for Germany," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(4), pages 619-641, December.
    4. Laszlo Goerke & Markus Pannenberg, 2004. "Norm-Based Trade Union Membership: Evidence for Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(4), pages 481-504, November.
    5. Berndt Keller, 2005. "Union Formation through Merger: The Case of Ver.di in Germany," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 43(2), pages 209-232, June.
    6. Addison, John T. & Bellmann, Lutz & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2002. "The reform of the German works constitution act: a critical assessment," Discussion Papers 16, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    7. Carruth, Alan & Schnabel, Claus, 1993. " The Determination of Contract Wages in West Germany," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 95(3), pages 297-310.
    8. Addison, John T. & Bellmann, Lutz & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2002. "German Works Councils Old and New: Incidence, Coverage and Determinants," IZA Discussion Papers 495, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2003. "Trade union membership in Eastern and Western Germany: convergence or divergence?," Discussion Papers 18, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    10. Anke Hassel, 1999. "The Erosion of the German System of Industrial Relations," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 37(3), pages 483-505, September.
    11. Addison, John T. & Bellmann, Lutz & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2002. "The Long Awaited Reform of the German Works Constitution Act," IZA Discussion Papers 422, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Gesine Stephan & Knut Gerlach, 2005. "Wage settlements and wage setting: results from a multi-level model," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(20), pages 2297-2306.
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    Cited by:

    1. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke, 2011. "Slip Sliding Away: Further Union Decline In Germany And Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 58(4), pages 490-518, September.
    2. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke & Lutz Bellmann, 2011. "The Demise of a Model? The State of Collective Bargaining and Worker Representation in Germany," GEMF Working Papers 2011-09, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    3. Schnabel Claus & Wagner Joachim, 2008. "The Aging of the Unions in West Germany, 1980–2006," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(5-6), pages 497-511, October.
    4. Oesch, Daniel, 2010. "Trade Unions and Industrial Relations in Switzerland," MPRA Paper 22059, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke & Lutz Bellmann, 2013. "The Extent of Collective Bargaining and Workplace Representation: Transitions between States and their Determinants. A Comparative Analysis of Germany and Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 60(2), pages 182-209, May.
    6. Hirsch, Boris & Schnabel, Claus, 2011. "Let's take bargaining models seriously: The decline in union power in Germany, 1992 - 2009," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 10/2011, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    7. Claus Schnabel & Joachim Wagner, 2007. "The Persistent Decline in Unionization in Western and Eastern Germany, 1980-2004 - What Can We Learn from a Decomposition Analysis?," Industrielle Beziehungen - Zeitschrift fuer Arbeit, Organisation und Management - The German Journal of Industrial Relations, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 14(2), pages 118-132.
    8. Guertzgen, Nicole, 2012. "Estimating the wage premium of collective wage contracts: Evidence from longitudinal linked employer-employee data," ZEW Discussion Papers 12-073, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    9. Nicole Gürtzgen, 2006. "The Effect of Firm- ans Industry-Level Contracts on Wages: Evidence from Longitudinal Linked Employer-Employee Data," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-082, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    10. John Addison & Paulino Teixeira & Jens Stephani & Lutz Bellmann, 2012. "Can German Unions Still Cut It?," GEMF Working Papers 2012-19, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    11. Ingrid Ott & Susanne Soretz, 2006. "Governmental activity and private capital adjustment," Working Paper Series in Economics 26, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    12. Ingrid Ott & Susanne Soretz, 2006. "Nachhaltige Entwicklung durch endogeneUmweltwahrnehmung," Working Paper Series in Economics 24, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    13. Nadja Dwenger & Pia Rattenhuber & Viktor Steiner, 2011. "Sharing the burden: Empirical evidence on corporate tax incidence," Working Papers sharing_the_burden, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    14. Uwe Jirjahn, 2013. "Der Beitrag der Arbeitsmarktökonomik zur Erforschung von Gewerkschaften und Tarifvertragsbeziehungen in Deutschland," Research Papers in Economics 2013-03, University of Trier, Department of Economics.
    15. Eichhorst, Werner & Marx, Paul, 2009. "Reforming German Labor Market Institutions: A Dual Path to Flexibility," IZA Discussion Papers 4100, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira & Thomas Zwick, 2006. "The Impact of Works Councils on Wages," GEMF Working Papers 2006-08, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    17. Addison, John T. & Bryson, Alex & Teixeira, Paulino & Pahnke, André & Bellmann, Lutz, 2010. "The State of Collective Bargaining and Worker Representation in Germany: The Erosion Continues," IZA Discussion Papers 5030, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Eichhorst, Werner & Marx, Paul, 2009. "From the Dual Apprenticeship System to a Dual Labor Market? The German High-Skill Equilibrium and the Service Economy," IZA Discussion Papers 4220, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Addison, John T. & Teixeira, Paulino & Zwick, Thomas, 2006. "Works Councils and the Anatomy of Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 2474, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Uwe Jirjahn & Kornelius Kraft, 2010. "Teamwork And Intra-Firm Wage Dispersion Among Blue-Collar Workers," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 57(4), pages 404-429, September.
    21. Bellmann Lutz & Gerlach Knut & Meyer Wolfgang, 2008. "Company-Level Pacts for Employment," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(5-6), pages 533-553, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    union density; union mergers; collective bargaining; works councils; decentralization/deregulation; union membership; corporatist model;

    JEL classification:

    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects

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