University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Development of recent works council legislation,   pp. 3-7 PDF (2.3 MB)

Page 6

- 6 -
The reason for sketching this legislative struggle at this
point is primarily to indicate the climate in which this
investigation was conducted. The arguments of both sides on
this topic permeated all interviews and discussions which were
thus lent a flavor of rare timeliness.
Works Councils and other Institutions
A law which permits or compels the election of representatives
by the employed personnel of an enterprise does not ipso facto
endow these representatives with the power to discharge their
various duties successfully. Except for special cases, employee
organizations resting on the narrow basis of an individual
establishment or enterprise lack the economic strength necessary
to have employee demands prevail against the superior economic
position of the employers. In view of this circumstance, the
works councils, if acting unassisted, are rather weak elements
in the economic and social life of a nation.
Consequently, the works councils tend to fall easily under
the domination of other and stronger social forces which may
use them in the pursuit of their own purposes. The most likely
institutions which may gain influence or even domination over
works councils are the unions, the political parties, the employer,
and the State. Even if any one of these institutions, for example,
the union, should secure preponderant influence over the works
council, it may be forced to combat continually the eventually
conflicting aspirations of the other institutions. Its hold my
thus be precarious.
To ensure its influence with the employees, any social force
which has achieved temporary control over the works council may
be greatly tempted to abolish the entire institution. The classical
examples of that policy are offered by the fate of works councils
under the Nazi regime and, more recently, in the Soviet Zone of
Germany. When the works council elections showed a considerable
disapproval of the respective political and economic systems, free
elections to the Nazi shop councils were ended and, in the Soviet
Zone, the works council itself was abolished.
Works Councils and Unions Before 1933
The history of German works council legislation after World
War I is well-known. It may therefore suffice to recall here that
the works council of 1918 was not of the union's making. To a
very large extent, it was the result of attempts by the radical
left (the Independent Socialist, Spartacus and, subsequently, the

Go up to Top of Page