Sauerland trade association

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The Sauerland Metalworkers' Union was one of the early Christian unions . The organization was founded in Neheim in 1899 . It went on in 1903 in the Christian Metalworkers' Association (CMV).

Beyond its significance for local and regional history, the association is an example of the emergence of a trade union organization in general and, in many respects, characteristic of the Christian trade union movement in particular. This applies, for example, to the local roots of these organizations and the conflicts within the Christian trade unions and the Catholic milieu as a whole.

Cover sheet of the statute and membership book


The city of Neheim has been a center of the lighting industry since the second half of the 19th century . The numerous small and medium-sized businesses in the city concentrated primarily on the production of petroleum lights or their metal components. This branch of industry experienced a boom in the 1890s, but at the turn of the century got into a crisis due to the triumph of gas and electric lighting. The entrepreneurs reacted with wage cuts, rationalization measures (breaking down work into individual work steps) and the increasing recruitment of female workers.

The many skilled workers feared a loss of status and saw their jobs in the long run due to the work of women in production. Even if there had been attempts by the social democratic and liberal labor movement to gain a foothold in the city for decades, it was only the crisis in the lighting industry that provided the impetus that was lacking so far.

There were spontaneous work stoppages and, in this context, efforts to join a union. As a city with a predominantly Catholic population, joining a free, ie social democratically oriented, trade union was out of the question. The attempt to set up a paying agency for a liberal trade union ( Hirsch-Dunkersche trade unions ) failed due to massive resistance from the local clergy. Since there was no supraregional active Christian organization yet, the protagonists decided to found a local foundation with the aim of attracting the workers of the other employees of the Sauerland iron and metal industry.

In fact, the organization spread over various industrial communities in the Sauerland and neighboring areas. At the beginning it had about 700 members. By the end of 1899 the number of members rose to around 1,500. The club reached its peak towards the end of 1900 with over 2,700 members. With this number of members, the trade association was one of the medium-sized organizations in the emerging Christian trade union movement, at times it was even the strongest Christian metal workers 'organization, before it finally fell significantly behind the "Christian metal workers' association", which was also founded in 1899, as a result of its regional orientation and the limited organizational potential. Nevertheless, at the turn of the century, the association was undoubtedly one of the focal points of the metalworkers' movement in the Arnsberg administrative region .

The trade association in the Arnsberg district had its actual focus with supporters in eleven locations. The major part was accounted for by the city of Neheim and the immediate neighboring towns. Subsidiaries were also set up in Neheim, for example for seasonal or woodworkers. There the association not only tried to enforce workers' interests against employers through strikes and other measures, but also became a (local) political mouthpiece for the working population, as leading union members were elected to the city council.

The rapid upswing was followed by an equally rapid decline as a result of a lost strike in 1901 . The strike costs forced the contribution to be increased and resulted in a massive wave of withdrawals.

In addition, the association was drawn into the internal disputes of the Christian trade unions. While trade unionists like August Brust from the Christian Miners' Association pleaded for a cross-denominational and cross-party unity union, especially church-related trade unionists like Franz Wieber from the CMV campaigned for a strictly Catholic orientation. Within the general association of Christian trade unions, Wieber's attitude prevailed and the CMV was excluded.

Instead, it was planned to form a new central association from the Sauerland trade union and a regional trade union from Siegerland. However, from the outset this project was under a bad star. The cultural and confessional contrast between the Catholic Sauerland and the Protestant victorious countries also contributed to this. In addition, the general association of Christian trade unions quickly turned around and recognized the CMV as a central association again.

The organizational uncertainty led to another wave of exit in the Sauerland. This finally forced the remnants of the trade union to join the CMV in 1903 .

The trade union movement in Neheim did not recover from this crisis until 1909/10. The membership of all directional unions remained low. However, the Sauerland trade union had created the basis for the Christian trade unions in Neheim to become a mass movement in the last years of the Empire and for the region to remain a stronghold of the Christian trade union movement until 1933.


Archival sources can be found primarily in the Arnsberg City Archives and in the Westphalian State Archives in Münster .


  • Maren Braedt: The human being is our measure. 100 years of the metal workers' union in the Olpe district. From Christian metal workers' association to IG Metall (1906–2006). IG Metall administration office in Olpe, Olpe 2006.
  • Jens Hahnwald: Black brothers in red undergarments. Workers and labor movement in the Arnsberg, Brilon and Meschede districts 1889–1914. In: Karl-Peter Ellerbrock, Tanja Bessler-Worbs (Hrsg.): Economy and society in south-eastern Westphalia. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Arnsberg and its economic area in the 19th and 20th centuries (= studies on economic, social and technological history. Vol. 20). Society for Westphalian Economic History, Dortmund 2001, ISBN 3-925227-42-3 , pp. 224-275.
  • Jens Hahnwald: "Sauerland Union of Metal Workers" - a regional union between rise and fall . In: Südwestfalenarchiv 13/2013 pp. 251–292
  • Martin Vormberg: The labor movement in the district of Olpe from its beginnings to the First World War (= series of publications of the district of Olpe. No. 12, ISSN  0177-8153 ). Senior district director of the district - district archive Olpe 1987.