Management and Labor in Imperial Germany: Ruhr Industrialists as Employers, 1896-1914

By Elaine Glovka Spencer | Go to book overview

8
Conflict
and Readjustment

The 1905 Coal Strike

Ruhr employers were dismayed by the suddenness with which the local incidents of 1904, discussed at the end of the previous chapter, escalated into a massive regional confrontation, lasting from 14 January to 9 February 1905. Emil Krabler described the strike as coming "like a thief in the night." 1 At its peak, the strike was joined by 73 percent of the workers in Ruhr mines. Words of caution from leaders of the miners' unions failed to check the momentum of this impressive demonstration of miner solidarity and of dissatisfaction with the conditions under which they labored. The mine operators noted the failure of union leaders to control the situation and used this as an argument against negotiating with organized labor. On 14 January, Krabler, speaking on behalf of the leadership of the Bergbau Verein, told officials of the Prussian mining authority that negotiation with the unions would be of dubious utility because there was no guarantee that any agreements could be enforced. 2 This, of course, was not the principal stumbling block to negotiations. The real issue was the mine owners' denial of ny role to organized labor, no matter how constituted, in employeremployee relations.

Ruhr coal industrialists refused to recognize any legitimate basis for the strike or for subsequent union demands. Employers claimed that throughout the industry miners were fairly treated. Leaders of the Bergbau Verein indicated they would welcome a government inquiry into conditions in the Ruhr in the confidence that their claims of blamelessness would be verified. They hoped that such an inquiry would shift attention away from the question of whether the basis of labor relations in the mines should be altered to the question of whether existing rules were properly implemented. To demonstrate that the 1905 strike was not based on legitimate grievances, employers pointed out that the miners had struck without giving notice and only later formulated specific demands. 3 According to man-

-98-

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Management and Labor in Imperial Germany: Ruhr Industrialists as Employers, 1896-1914
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Coal, Iron, and Steel 8
  • 2 - The Entrepreneurial Elite 24
  • 3 - Ruhr Workers 40
  • 4 - Industry and Government 52
  • 5 - Initial Challenges 63
  • 6 - Company Welfare Programs 71
  • 7 - The Terms of Labor 80
  • 8 - Conflict and Readjustment 98
  • 9 - Containment 114
  • 10 - Unsolved Problems 130
  • Conclusion and Comparisons 139
  • Appendix A Ruhr Coal, Iron, and Steel Corporations 149
  • Appendix B Members of the Ruhr Entrepreneurial Elite 151
  • Notes 157
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 205
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