Unions Short of Labor01 Sep 2003
Today is Labor Day in the States, and it is thus somehow appropriate to report on Germany's second largest and most troubled union IG Metall, which elected a new chairman in an extraordinary session yesterday. That the traditionalist Jürgen Peters would be elected had already been decided in a smoke-filled room. That he would receive the vote of only 66% of the delegates was a surprise.
Tobias and Hans (trust me on the links, I can't get either to work at the moment) have already commented on the (ir)relevance of unions in modern German politics. I can only point to the ZDF archive article from April 2003 on declining membership in the IG Metall. Of their 2.64 million members, 8% are youth (students and apprentices?), 24% are pensioners, and 300,000 (6%) are unemployed. That means of that 2.64 million, 38%, or over 1 million, do not work. (I'm not even counting full-time union and workers' council functionaries...)
Only 290,000 members are in the eastern states, so it is no surprise that the strike in the east for the 35-hour work week failed so miserably.
Is it any wonder that when the unions came out against Schröder's reforms, the Chancellor simply laughed in their collective faces?
Disclaimer: IG Metall also represents workers in the computer software industry. They would be 'my' union if I were inclined to join, and they helped organize the worker's council at my employer.
Update: Lilli, an active SPD member, is also somewhat doubtful about Peters.