Michael Kittner, Axel Breinlinger
October 18, 2016
In the Federal Republic of Germany the situation of the trade unions with regard to the legal systems has started to change. This is all the more significant as labour relations in West Germany - particularly in a superficial comparison to other West European countries - are largely structured by law. Above and beyond any national and historical peculiarities this “legalization” is, however, an outcome of the basic functions of the trade unions; neither, therefore has it anything to do with the self-understanding of the political coalitions nor is it a thermometer of the integration or autonomy of the unions in a certain societal system. The refering of the trade unions to a certain legal system, such as that of the bourgeois society, does not mean that they have been bound to it in the past nor that they are limited to it in the present. This dialectical relation of the associations with law determines a number of structural and functional problems of a different type and with a different stress, which are reflected in the attitudes of the trade union members (“legalism”, “legal nihilism”). Any legal strategy of trade unions must bear this in mind just as much as the attempts of the social opponent to shape and/or to preserve the legal system in bis own interests. The West German trade unions are, however, becoming increasingly aware of the significance of law for the safeguarding of their basic functions and are beginning to develop an “instrumental relationship” to law as a concerted purpose of action.