Central Working Association

(Zentralarbeitsgemeinschaft der industriellen und gewerblichen Arbeitgeber und Arbeitnehmer Deutschlands, ZAG)
   On 15 November 1918 a compact was signed between Germany s em-ployers' associations (Vereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände), repre-sented by Hugo Stinnes,* and the free trade unions,* led by Carl Legien,* wherein the parties agreed to foster conciliation between the opposing interests of labor and management. This Stinnes-Legien accord, which buried the strife that had beset labor-management relations during World War I and provided for collaboration both during demobilization and beyond, was the prelude to the Central Working Association and was extolled at the time as a labor Magna Carta. Recognizing the fragility of Germany s interim regime and fearful lest revolutionary conditions threaten the factory structure and international trade, employers initiated talks with labor in October 1918. (In fact, the unions had asked employers to join them in an association early in the war; the summons went unheeded until 1918.) When the employers agreed to address long-held demands for reform, the unions endorsed the partnership. Actually, labor no less than management believed that radicalization could be checked only by restoring normal economic life.
   Formally launched by its constitution of 4 December 1918 (drafted by Legien and Hans von Raumer*), ZAG has been likened to the 10 November 1918 agreement between Friedrich Ebert* and General Wilhelm Groener,* whereby the army agreed to defend the interim cabinet in exchange for the latter s support of the high command. Through Stinnes-Legien (and thereafter ZAG), employers acknowledged the unions as the "authorized representatives of the workers" (as opposed to the companies "yellow unions) and as the entity with which to negotiate wages. In addition, they agreed to an eight-hour day, with compen-satory wage adjustment, and approved the creation of workers committees in firms with more than fifty employees. In return, the employers secured union support for the existing factory system and Germany s economic structure.
   By demonstrating that a partnership with management might preclude the need for social revolution, ZAG tempered labor demands prior to the December 1918 Congress* of Workers and Soldiers Councils; it also facilitated German demobilization. But, like the Ebert-Groener pact, Stinnes-Legien proved short-lived. Once the revolutionary fervor had evaporated, and as fiscal policies sparked hyperinflation, the integrative force of ZAG was imperiled. The 1923 Ruhr occupation* finally undermined ZAG by bleeding the resources of the ADGB and killing the eight-hour workday. The agreement collapsed when the Republic's fiscal-stabilization measures of 1923-1924 ushered in a period of intensified social conflict. Although state intervention preserved collective bar-gaining until 1933, ZAG s collapse underscored the Republic s inability to cre-ate conditions essential to a modern industrial society.
   REFERENCES:Bessel, Germany after the First World War; Feldman, "German Busi-ness" and Great Disorder; Feldman and Steinisch, Industrie und Gewerkschaften; Kolb, Weimar Republic; Skrzypczak, "From Carl Legien.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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