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However, this bad result of extensive unemployment has as yet affected the German trade-unions comparatively little. Although they have sustained a loss in membership which is easy to understand, this loss has been far less than would be expected, considering the extent and duration of the depression. The 31 national trade-unions which form the German Federation of Labor (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) had a membership of 4,948,209 at the end of 1929, and the year following a membership of 4,717,569. This is a decrease of 230,640, or 4.7 per cent. The loss was chiefly in members who had only recently joined the union and who, on account of this, were entitled either to no benefit or to only a limited benefit.
The small loss in membership is all the more remarkable, as the German trade-unions have also been subjected to severe pressure from the communists and fascists. An indication of the inherent strength of the trade-union movement in Germany is shown by the results of the last elections of the industrial councils. Members of these councils are elected every year. Every group nominates its candidates in each establishment or workshop, and there is proportional representation according to the number of votes cast. The number of representatives shows therefore almost exactly the strength of each group. In the metal industry, for example, of 27,617 industrial councillors elected, 22,714, or 82.25 per cent, represented the tradeunions affiliated to the German Federation of Labor, 1,458, or 5.28 per cent, represented the communists, and 373, or 1.34 per cent, the fascists. The remaining places were divided among the other trade
The remarkable resistance shown by the German trade-unions during this crisis is due mainly to the long training of the members, the capability and trade-union faith of the officers (numbering several tens of thousands), and finally to the system of benefits.
Trade-union benefits paid.-A considerable amount of money has been paid to the members out of the funds of the unions during these times of distress. From 1929 to 1930 the income of the 31 national trade-unions affiliated to the German Federation of Labor fell from 251,381,000 to 231,655,000 marks ($59,828,678 to $55,133,890), a decrease of 19,726,000 marks ($4,694,788). During the same period expenditures rose from 202,944,000 to 241,182,000 marks ($48,300,672 to $57,401,316), an increase of 38,238,000 marks ($9,100,644). The decrease in income and the increase in expenditure in 1930 as compared with 1929 show the effect of the economic situation upon the German trade-unions. This becomes more evident when the figures for benefits are analyzed.
The 31 national trade-unions of the German Federation of Labor paid out in benefits during 1929 the sum of 100,097,000 marks ($23,823,086), and during 1930 the sum of 133,409,000 marks ($31,751,342). The expenditure for the 7 most important classes of benefits was as follows:
TABLE 2.-AMOUNTS DISBURSED FOR EACH TYPE OF BENEFITS BY GERMAN TRADE
UNIONS, IN 1929 AND 1930
This table shows that in 1930, when conditions were bad, 34,800,000 marks ($8,282,400) more were expended for unemployment, emergency, and traveling benefits than during the preceding year, which was by no means a time of prosperity. This increased expenditure is evidence of the financial sacrifice of the German trade-unions. A higher expenditure for disability benefits became necessary because old members who were discharged were compelled to claim the tradeunion benefit to which they were entitled.
Educational work of trade-unions.— The German trade-unions have always paid great attention to the education of their members, and spend much money for this purpose. The opportunities for tradeunion education in Germany are manifold and adapted to the various aims of the movement. The main institution is the trade-union
. college of the German Federation of Labor at Bernau near Berlin. There the officers receive instruction on labor legislation, social politics, political economy, etc., and also on their duties in the organization. Some large unions also have their own schools for their particular purposes. In addition, many members are sent by their organizations to colleges, public schools, and similar institutions, sometimes with a special grant of public funds.
But these opportunities for education are designed more especially for the officers. Far more varied and extensive is the system of education for the rank and file of the members. Each year courses of study for adults and youths, of both sexes, are arranged in all parts of the country by the local trade councils of the federation, by the national unions, and by their locals. Extensive libraries are available to all trade-union members, who get also a trade-union paper once a week. Lately, the educational courses have been made available to the unemployed members, and in many instances separate courses are being arranged for them. Those who participate are brought together in special homes, in order to draw them away from their gloomy surroundings and their home troubles, and to insure that they shall begin their study under favorable conditions. The amount expended gives an approximate idea of the extent of the educational work of the federation. The 31 member unions spent for education and literature during 1929 the sum of 13,200,000 marks ($3,141,600), and during 1930 the sum of 13,900,000 marks ($3,308,200).
A great part of the trade-union work devolves upon the 1,228 local councils of the federation. These councils include all members of the unions of the German Federation of Labor in a certain locality or district. The local councils take care of all tasks of the members of their district, such as the preparing of elections for social institutions, the care for the young workers and the unemployed, and the representation of the workers before the law courts and boards which settle disputes as to wages, State insurance, and benefits. Of the local councils, 82 have permanent offices; 123 labor offices advise and assist the workers in all cases of emergency, write appeals to courts of law, etc. The local councils conduct the libraries, control the protective measures for the building workers, arrange meetings for general objects, theater performances, educational courses, play nights, and excursions for the young members. The local councils have 167 trade-union halls, including meeting halls, offices, restaurants, and sometimes sleeping quarters for traveling members.
1931 Congress of German Federation of Labor The deliberations of the congress, held at Frankfort-on-the-Main from August 31 to September 4, 1931, were naturally shadowed by the economic situation. The general situation also received considerable attention in the speeches of the fraternal delegates, of whom 14 came from foreign countries, and in the speeches of the representatives of governments and cities who were present. The majority of the 55 propositions before the congress which came from the rank and file of the unions related to the prevailing depression or ameliorative measures. For the consideration of the three most important points on the agenda, the executive board of the federation had appointed recognized experts, in order to afford a proper basis for the discussion and for decision.
Every year the executive board makes an extensive report on its activity. As this was also the case this year, it was necessary only to supplement the printed report, and this was done by the president of the federation, Theodor Leipart, who spoke at length on the question of wages.
In 1928 the German trade-unions succeeded in gaining an increase in wages for 11,000,000 workers; wage rates were raised 8 per cent, while the cost of living increased only 2 per cent. During 1929 the rates of wages were again increased by from 4 to 5 per cent. During 1930 the unions were able to maintain the rates of wages generally, but those paid in excess of the agreement rate they were not able to maintain against the onslaughts of the employers and official arbitrators. In the autumn of 1930 the employers started an extensive attack on the rates of wages that had been established by agreement. They began with the metal industry of Berlin, and the oflicial arbitrators made awards amounting to a reduction of 6 per cent on the average. Repeated wage reductions have, generally speaking, reduced the rates of wages in Germany to the level of 1928. But the weekly earnings have decreased still more on account of parttime work. The most obvious result of the systematic reduction of wages may be seen in the increasing severity of the economic crisis and in the increasing unemployment figures.
In the discussion of the report of the president of the federation, much stress was laid on the danger to the social-political institutions. The congress finally adopted a resolution on this subject, as follows:
The congress repudiates decidedly the attempt made to take advantage of the crisis to outlaw the workers. The trade-unions stand up as always for the maintenance and development of social legislation. They consider State insurance against unemployment, sickness, accident, old age, and disability, to-day as heretofore, a decisive factor in the working conditions. At a time when the workers suffer the most under the transgression of irresponsible captains of industry, they demand a warranty for a stronger influence of the trade-unions in all social and economic institutions.
The revolutionary changes in the economic system and the 40hour week formed the subject receiving the most attention at the congress. The opinion of the congress on this most important question of the present time was given in a resolution of which we quote the essential points:
The development of the economic crisis has shown in an impressive manner that the political organization of the world has not achieved the degree of perfection required by the economy. The world has the choice either to remove all political tension by a sincere renunciation of war, i. e., by general disarmament, and thereby to realize the preliminaries for a world economy, or to abandon the world-wide economic cooperation and to put up with the fatal consequences deriving therefrom.
Realizing that it can not be expected that the existing productive power will be in full operation very soon, even under favorable developments, the congress emphasizes the urgent necessity to reduce unemployment by a systematic reduction of the hours of labor. This measure is possible, and imperative for social and political reasons.
Public and private economy, with which the congress was dealing, has thus become a question of actuality because of the economic depression. Public ownership has reached a position of considerable importance in Germany. Of the 18,000,000 industrial workers, 2,250,000 are employed by public authorities, and 1,000,000 of these in industrial production. The orders for goods, services, etc., given by public institutions to private firms amount to from 8 to 9 billion marks a year.
Private employers have never favored public ownership. Their objection is expensive operation and high wages. They now demand the return, to private enterprise, of the public establishments, at least those which yield profits; the other public services, however, like the building and cleaning of streets and canals, fire fighting, carting away dust, school kitchens, homes for the aged, hospitals, theaters, and cemeteries, may remain in the hands of the public authorities.
The trade-unions oppose the transfer of public institutions and public services into the hands of private capitalists, on the grounds that public institutions work more cheaply than capitalistic firms, that the consumers must not be left to the mercy of private monopolists, that in public institutions the workers share in decisions on administration and the rates of wages paid, that if public housing, for instance, were to be transferred to private enterprise poor people could no longer expect to get rooms and houses at reasonable . rates, and that under private ownership the workers would have to rest content with lower wages and worse working conditions.
The opinion of the congress on this matter was summarized in a lengthy resolution whose main point was as follows: “Common welfare demands the maintenance of all public institutions and their further development on account of the increasing distress of the population. The main object of all public economic institutions can not be the desire for profits, but the desire to serve the community.'
The last important subject on the agenda of the congress was the development of the labor laws. The collective labor rights in Germany are very extensive and varied; they comprise quite a number of laws. The practical application of these laws has revealed their flaws and deficiencies, and these flaws the German trade-unions try constantly to remove. The congress of Frankfort has done its share in this respect. The objections raised and suggestions for corrections made are, however, too many to be dealt with in detail here.