When Jörg Hofmann, the head of the IG Metall labor union, recently looked over last year’s balance sheets, he said he liked what he saw. In particular, the fact that membership numbers had stayed remarkably steady.
At the end of 2016, there were 2,274,033 members in one of the world’s largest labor unions – just 290 more than the previous year. IG Metall was lucky, though. Almost every union within Germany’s Trade Union Confederation (DGB) shrank during the same period. The only organization that saw numbers rise significantly was the German Police Union, bolstered by fears over national security.
Meanwhile, Germany’s labor market seems to know no bounds. Almost 43.6 million people were employed in December, with unemployment falling to its lowest level since reunification, in what’s Germans are referring to as a “job miracle.”
However trade unions are having trouble translating that into good times of their own. IG BCE, Germany’s third-largest trade union, for the mining, chemical and energy industries, was hit hard by the end of coal mining, with membership sinking by just over 1 percent. It would have fallen further if it weren’t for new membership in the chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors.