German Trade Union Confederation

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Confederation of German Trade Unions
legal form unincorporated association
founding October 13, 1949 in Munich
Seat Berlin
precursor General German Trade Union Confederation
purpose trade union federation
presidency Reiner Hoffman
members 5,934,971 (2019)
in 8 unions

The German Trade Union Confederation ( DGB ) is the largest umbrella organization of individual trade unions in Germany. It has eight member unions with around six million trade unionists in the Federal Republic of Germany . These cover all sectors and economic sectors. However, there are also trade unions that do not belong to the DGB (see List of trade unions in Germany ) . The board of directors of the DGB is based in Berlin .

The union has been committed to the principle of a single union from the start .

The DGB works at international level in the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and represents the German trade union movement in international institutions such as the EU and the UN .

For its work, the DGB receives 12% from the membership fees of its trade unions and finances DGB legal protection from this .


Commemorative plaque on the founding of the German Trade Union Confederation in the Deutsches Museum
Founding document of the German Federation of Trade Unions from 1949
Election touchstones of the DGB 1987 for the federal election

The first steps towards founding a unified trade union took place before the end of the Second World War . On March 18, 1945, unionists met in the city of Aachen , already liberated by US troops , to hold an inaugural congress. The DGB itself was founded on October 12, 1949 in Munich . At that time, the Federal Congress of Trade Unions passed the "Statute of the DGB", which has since been amended or revised several times. Accordingly, the DGB is an “association of trade unions” based in Berlin.

The predecessor of the DGB was the General German Trade Union Confederation (ADGB). In the GDR there was the Free German Trade Union Confederation (FDGB), which is not comparable to the DGB. From 1919 to 1933 the umbrella organization of the Christian trade unions (and initially also the liberal ones) called itself the DGB (today the CGB ).

Federal congresses, policy and action programs

  • 12-14 October 1949: The founding congress of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) for the Federal Republic of Germany in Munich elects Hans Böckler as the first chairman. The ideological split in directional unions is overcome by the unitary union. The "Parliament of Labour", as this and the later DGB congresses are called, decides on economic and socio-political guidelines with the demands for socialization of the key industries, economic planning and co-determination
  • February 16, 1951: Hans Böckler dies. After his death, Christian Fette was elected DGB chairman by the extraordinary DGB congress in Essen in June.
  • 13-17 October 1952: The 2nd ordinary DGB federal congress elects Walter Freitag , previously chairman of IG Metall, as DGB chairman.
  • May 1, 1955: The action program of the DGB calls for a 40-hour, five-day week with full wage compensation. From 1956, a popular campaign with the motto "Saturdays is my dad's" emphasizes the cause.
  • 1st-6th October 1956: The 4th ordinary federal congress of the DGB elects Willi Richter as chairman.
  • 22-27 October 1962: The 6th regular DGB federal congress in Hanover elects Ludwig Rosenberg as DGB chairman. In terms of content, the DGB rejected the emergency laws and opted for self-determination and reunification and against the violation of human rights by the GDR. Equal wages for women's work were also demanded. In the second civil service policy program, the DGB called for the civil service legislation to be adapted to modern circumstances.
  • 21-22 November 1963: At its extraordinary congress in Düsseldorf, the DGB decides on a new basic program that weakens the socialization demands of the Munich program of 1949, but does not give them up.
  • March 23, 1965: The action program of the DGB demands, among other things, shorter working hours, a 13th monthly salary and four weeks of minimum vacation.
  • May 21, 1969: The 8th DGB Congress in Munich elects Heinz Oskar Vetter as the new DGB chairman.
  • 25th-30th June 1972: The 9th Congress in Berlin adopts a program of action. "Requirement No. 1" is co-determination.
  • June 1979: In an action program, the DGB calls for the safeguarding and creation of jobs.
  • 12-14 March 1981: The extraordinary federal congress of the DGB in Düsseldorf adopts a new basic program that supplements the demands of the program from 1963, especially in the areas of peace and environmental policy.
  • October 1988: The DGB decides on an action program for employment policy and full employment.
  • 20-26 May 1990: The 14th regular DGB federal congress in Hamburg elects Heinz-Werner Meyer , the chairman of the IG mining and energy, to succeed Ernst Breit (since May 21, 1982) in the office of DGB federal chairman.
  • 13-17 June 1994: The 15th ordinary federal congress of the DGB elects Dieter Schulte as chairman after the death of Heinz-Werner Meyer.
  • July 12, 1995: DGB program to promote vocational training. Vocational training should be made possible for all young people.
  • 13-16 November 1996: At its extraordinary federal congress in Dresden, the DGB decides on a new basic program that declares the socially regulated market economy to be the goal (see below).
  • March 5, 1997: The DGB decides on the action program "For work and social justice" (see below).
  • 27-31 May 2002: The 17th Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB elects Michael Sommer to succeed Dieter Schulte.
  • 22-26 May 2006: 18th Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB, Berlin - "Human dignity is our standard" (see below)
  • 16-20 May 2010: 19th Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB in Berlin – “Work. Justice. Solidarity."
  • 11-16 May 2014: 20th Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB in Berlin – “Work. Justice. Solidarity.” Reiner Hoffmann is elected to succeed Michael Sommer.
  • 13-17 May 2018: 21st Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB in Berlin - "SOLIDARITY_DIVERSITY_JUSTICE"

On May 14th and 15th, 2009, the DGB organized a "Capitalism Congress" in which it dealt with the current world economic crisis.


Mergers of affiliated unions

When the DGB was founded in 1949, it had a total of 16 member unions. In 1972 the DGB had 6.98 million members.

In 1978 the police union (GdP) joined the DGB as the 17th union. In 1989, the art union merged with IG Druck und Papier , reducing the number of members to 16 again. In 1996, the IG Bau-Steine-Erden and the horticulture, agriculture and forestry union merged to form the IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (BAU), so that there were 15 members. In 1997, the IG mining and energy (IG BE), the IG chemistry, paper, ceramics (IG Chemie) and the leather trade union merged to form the IG mining, chemistry, energy (IG BCE), leaving 13 members. In 1998 and 2000, respectively, the wood and plastics union and the textile clothing union merged into IG Metall . Thus there were still eleven members, and in 2001 four member unions merged ( German Postal Union (DPG) , Public Services, Transport and Traffic (ÖTV) , Trade, Banks and Insurance (HBV) and IG Media – Printing and Paper, Journalism and Art (IG Media) ) of the DGB, including the German Employees' Union (DAG), which was not a member of the DGB , to form the new trade union ver.di. As a result, since March 2001 there have only been eight member trade unions in the DGB. On November 30, 2010, Transnet and the GDBA (which was not a member of the DGB) merged to form the Railway and Transport Union (EVG). The number of member unions thus remained constant.

membership numbers

After the number of members of the trade unions represented in the DGB jumped from almost 7.94 million to over 11.8 million after reunification in 1990, a continuous downward trend can be observed since 1991. At the end of 2018, the DGB had fewer than 6 million members (as of December 31, 2018). This is the lowest level since 1951. The DGB only had a membership of 6 million members or less in its initial phase, the early phase of the German “ economic miracle ” from 1950 to 1955. At that time, the number of members rose slowly from 5 after it was founded in 1949 .4 to 6.1 million.

The basic program of 1996

The basic program adopted at the 5th Extraordinary Federal Congress from November 13th to 16th, 1996 in Dresden is entitled "Shaping the future" and is divided into the following chapters and sections:

  • Our future – call for cooperation
  • I. Future of work
1. Creating work and sharing work
2. Change in work
3. We want to shape the work of the future
4. Shape through legal protection and collective agreement
5. Expand participation and co-determination
  • II. Formation of the economy
1. Achieve full employment
2. Grow ecologically and change course
3. Realize more social justice
4. Create equal living conditions in the regions
5. Market and state, co-determination and design
6. For a fair world economic order
  • III. Secure the welfare state through reforms
1. Public services and quality of life belong together
2. Consolidate and renew the social security system through reforms
  • IV. Demands on our democratic society
1. Expand political liberties
2. Human rights, peace and disarmament
3. Promote cultural diversity and democratic media
4. Education is the key to the future
  • V. The future of unions
1. Realize diversity in unity
2. Expand competence and participation
3. Renew organizational culture
4. The future of trade union representation in Europe

The 1997 program of action

The action program adopted on March 5, 1997 is entitled "For work and social justice" and is divided into the following chapters and sections:

  • I. Creating work – sharing work
1. Push through social and ecological reforms
2. Shorten working hours and create more time sovereignty
3. Secure and modernize training and further education
4. Publicly funded employment through active
  • II. Establish social justice
5. Stabilize social security systems – reduce statutory non-wage labor costs
6. Reform old-age security
7. Realize a socially just tax reform
  • III. Defend collective bargaining autonomy – strengthen employee rights
8. Maintain and reform sectoral wage agreements
9. Secure and strengthen employee rights
  • IV. Shaping European unity socially
  • V. Our way

18th Ordinary Federal Congress 22.-26. May 2006

The 18th Ordinary Federal Congress of the DGB took place from May 22nd to 26th, 2006 in Berlin. He chose

  • as chairman Michael Sommer (with 298 of 380 votes cast)
  • as Deputy Chair Ingrid Sehrbrock (with 212 of 373 votes cast)
  • as further members of the Executive Federal Board:
– Annelie Buntenbach (309 votes, submitted: 384)
– Dietmar Hexel (273 votes, submitted: 384)
– Claus Matecki (second ballot: 218 votes cast: 348)

The congress passed 137 motions on the DGB statutes as well as on social and trade union policy issues, including the "leading motion 1" of the federal executive board "Human dignity is our benchmark". It says, among other things:

“Human dignity is inextricably linked to the individual's ability to participate in social and economic life as an independent individual. Without social justice, however, there is neither freedom nor dignity. However, dignity and freedom are no longer self-evident goods in our society. They are threatened by increasing economic deregulation and flexibility.
The openness of the markets and the speed of transaction processes allow international corporations and financial institutions to make decisions free from democratic control that have serious consequences for national economies, individual companies and employees. This worldwide unleashing of markets puts enormous competitive pressure on the welfare states and thus on their social standards.
Social justice as a prerequisite for a life in dignity and as the guiding principle of a welfare state democracy means, now and in the future,
  • the acknowledgment of the right of workers to fair participation in the development and distribution of wealth and their expectations of self-determination and co-determination in the world of work and society;
  • social protection in old age, against illness and against unemployment, so that people with these existential risks remain integrated in social life and do not slip into social exclusion;
  • to enable all people, regardless of status, education and income of their parents, to have access to education and training and to promote lifelong learning. In this way, societal and social design opportunities can be used regardless of the status, education and income of the parents;
  • to enable the individual through a good education to help shape the change in the labor market, economy and society;
  • to give people the opportunity for social integration and to protect them from social exclusion, regardless of age, gender, social origin or cultural background;
  • to ensure social peace by maintaining internal security.
The German trade unions stand up for this comprehensive idea of ​​justice.”

Chair of the DGB

Headquarters of the DGB in Berlin
Reiner Hoffmann (2018)

All chairmen were or are members of the SPD .


Members in the DGB unions 2017
labor union women Men All in all
IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt IG BAU 67,069 26.35% 187,456 73.65% 254,525 4.25%
IG mining, chemicals, energy IG BCE 137.012 21.49% 500,611 78.51% 637,623 10.64%
Education and Science Union WT 199,529 71.71% 78,714 28.29% 278,243 4.64%
IG Metal IGM 406,893 17.98% 1,855,768 82.02% 2,262,661 37.74%
Union Food Enjoyment Restaurants NGG 83,741 41.89% 116,180 58.11% 199,921 3.33%
Police Union GdP 46,032 24.86% 139.121 75.14% 185.153 3.09%
Railway and Transport Union ECG 41.204 21.69% 148,771 78.31% 189,975 3.17%
United Services Union ver.di 1,038,221 52.24% 949.115 47.76% 1,987,336 33.15%
DGB total DGB 2,019,701 33.69% 3,975,736 66.31% 5,995,437 100.00%
DGB membership structure 2017

Member unions of the DGB with their seats

Bodies of the DGB

The organs of the DGB are:

  • federal congress
  • federal committee
  • Federal Board
  • revision commission

The highest body is the Federal Congress, which meets every four years. Between the federal congresses, the federal committee carries out the tasks.

The highest representative of the DGB is the chairman as head of a multi-headed "board". The executive federal board consists of Reiner Hoffmann (Chairman), Elke Hannack (Deputy Chairwoman), Anja Piel and Stefan Körzell . The Revision Committee consists of three members. Among other things, it monitors the cash management and the annual accounts of the federal government and reports on this to the federal congress or federal committee.

districts and regions

Districts of the DGB

The DGB is divided into nine districts and 59 regions.

The districts and regions are:

  • Baden-Württemberg
    regions: North Baden, North Württemberg, South Baden, South Württemberg
  • Bavaria
    Regions: Middle Franconia, Munich, Lower Bavaria, Upper Bavaria, Upper Franconia, Upper Palatinate, Swabia, Lower Franconia
  • Berlin – Brandenburg
    Regions: Berlin, East Brandenburg, West Brandenburg, South Brandenburg/Lausitz
  • Hesse – Thuringia
    Regions: Frankfurt-Rhein-Main, Southeast Hesse, Central Hesse, Thuringia, North Hesse, South Hesse
  • Lower Saxony - Bremen - Saxony-Anhalt
    Regions: Bremen-Elbe-Weser, Halle-Dessau, Altmark-Börde-Harz, Lower Saxony-Central, North-East Lower Saxony, Oldenburg-East Friesland, Osnabrück-Emsland, South-East Lower Saxony, South Lower Saxony-Harz
  • North (Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania)
    Regions: Hamburg, Kern, East Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Rostock-Schwerin, Schleswig-Holstein Northwest, Schleswig-Holstein Southeast, West Pomerania
  • North Rhine-Westphalia
    regions: Düsseldorf-Bergisch Land, Emscher-Lippe, Cologne-Bonn, Mülheim-Essen-Oberhausen, Münsterland, Lower Rhine, NRW South-West, Dortmund-Hellweg, East Westphalia-Lippe, Ruhr-Mark, South Westphalia
  • Rhineland-Palatinate – Saarland
    Regions: Koblenz, Rheinhessen-Nahe, Saar, Trier, Anterior and Southern Palatinate, West Palatinate
  • Saxony
    regions: Southwest Saxony, Dresden-Upper Elbe Valley, Leipzig-North Saxony, East Saxony

§ 11 of the DGB statutes contains the regulation on the districts and regions.

DGB youth

The DGB-Jugend is the youth organization of the DGB.

DGB educational offers

union press

From 1950 to 2004, the monthly trade union magazines were the DGB's theoretical discussion organ. The DGB has been publishing the online magazine Gegenblende since December 14th . Gegenblende is the successor to the DGB debate blog “Diskurs”.

In addition, the trade union weekly newspaper Welt der Arbeit was published, which had to be discontinued in 1988. In addition to the fact that the circulation of all newspapers owned by the trade unions was naturally too low, in the early 1950s they turned down the one-off offer to buy the well-known daily newspaper Die Welt from the British occupying power for DM 400,000  - the bid then went to Axel Springer Verlag .

The IG Metallers form the largest group of DGB youth

From 1950, the DGB published the official magazine "Die Quelle", which was discontinued in 1997 and replaced by the newsletter einblick from 1998.

further activities


Standard publications on the DGB:

  • Sources on the History of the German Trade Union Movement in the 20th Century . Cologne 1985 et seq.
  • Hans-Otto Hemmer, Kurt-Thomas Schmitz (Hrsg.): History of the trade unions in the Federal Republic of Germany. From the beginnings to today . Bund-Verlag, Cologne 1990.
  • Michael Schneider: Small history of the unions. Its development in Germany from the beginnings to the present day . Bonn 2000.
  • Klaus Schönhoven: The German trade unions . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  • Theo Pirker: The blind power. The Trade Union Movement in West Germany . Two volumes. Berlin 1960

Current scientific publications (alphabetically):

  • Ulrich Borsdorf , Karl Lauschke: Hans Boeckler . Two volumes. Plain text, Essen 2005.
  • Severin Cramm: In the sign of European integration. The DGB and the EGKS negotiations 1950/51 , in: work - movement - history. Journal of Historical Studies , Issue II/2016.
  • Frank Deppe: Trade Unions in the Great Transformation. From the 1970s to today. An introduction, Cologne 2011.
  • Dieter Dowe et al. (Ed.): The German Trade Union Confederation 1969-1975 . Publisher JHW Dietz, Bonn 2013.
  • Sascha Kristin Futh: The DGB discovered the campaign. The fight for the work-free Saturday , in: work - movement - history. Journal of Historical Studies , Issue II/2016.
  • Jan Hansen: Do rockets create jobs? The controversy about retrofitting and armaments conversion in the trade unions (around 1979 to 1983) , in: Work - Movement - History. Journal of Historical Studies , Issue II/2016.
  • Hans-Otto Hemmer: Just a remaining item? – 60 years DGB . In: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Issue III/2009.
  • Jens Hildebrandt: Unions in divided Germany. Relations between the DGB and FDGB from the Cold War to the New Ostpolitik 1955 to 1969. Röhrig Universitätsverlag, St. Ingbert 2010.
  • Robert Lorenz: union twilight. History and Perspectives of German Trade Unions . transcript, Bielefeld 2013.
  • Walther Müller-Jentsch: Trade unions and the social market economy since 1945 . Reclam, Stuttgart 2011
  • Wolfgang Schroeder , Bernhard Weßels: The trade unions in politics and society in the Federal Republic of Germany. A manual. West German Publishers, Wiesbaden 2003.


  • Juri Hälker, Claudius Vellay (eds.): Union Renewal. unions in renewal. Texts from international trade union research. Edition of the Hans Böckler Foundation 2006,
  • Anton Pelinka : Trade unions in the party state. A comparison between the German and the Austrian trade union federation (= Contributions to political science . Volume 37). Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-04583-1 .
  • Eberhard Fehrmann: Death of a clown - from the long dying of the unified union DGB, supplement of the magazine Sozialismus 6/2009, ISBN 978-3-89965-952-8
  • Reinhold Nimptsch: "Productive refugee aid by the trade unions: New organizational methods for the construction of 10,000 apartments"; Cologne 1950

See also

web links

Commons : German Trade Union Confederation  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Eberhard Fehrmann: Death of a clown - From the long dying of the unified union DGB, supplement of the magazine Sozialismus 6/2009, p. 40
  2. DGB national board: Aachen is "cradle of the unified trade union". Retrieved April 15, 2019 .
  3. a b Statute of the DGB , retrieved on 01/29/18
  4. Cf. Sascha Kristin Futh: The DGB discovers the campaign. The fight for the work-free Saturday , in: work - movement - history. Journal of Historical Studies , Issue II/2016.
  5. a b Basic program of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) (PDF, 312 kB) , retrieved on April 16, 2018
  6. a b Action program of the DGB 1997
  7. 18th Ordinary DGB Federal Congress – May 2006
  8. 19th DGB Federal Congress - Parliament of Labor , retrieved on April 16, 2018
  9. Information on the Parliament of Labor - 20th Ordinary Federal Congress
  10. Documentation Capitalism Congress I 14.-15. May 2009 (ZIP, 4MB) , retrieved April 16, 2018
  11. Chronological overview DGB
  12. DGB - Federal Executive: Number of members of the DGB trade unions. Retrieved October 18, 2019 .
  13. DGB - federal board: DGB membership numbers 1950-1993. Retrieved January 16, 2018 .
  14. Daily minutes May 23, 2006 of the 18th federal congress
  15. Approved motions of the 18th Federal Congress
  16. Applications in the area "B: Trade Union Guidance"
  18. [1]
  19. The DGB districts and their subdivisions , retrieved on January 29, 2018
  20. Online edition of the trade union monthly magazine
  21. Thomas Kroeter: Bulky waste or countervailing power? Subjective comments on the state and prospects of the trade union press (PDF; 61 kB) In: trade union monthly magazines , 3/86, pp. 172-180
  22. Sascha Kristin Futh: Strategic communication of trade unions, Wiesbaden 2018, p. 133
  23. Blog Tax Justice Network Germany, list of partners on the right