Representation - Cooperation - Conflict. The relation of migrant organisations and trade unions in Hamburg, Offenbach and Stuttgart (1970s/80s)

Based on three local case studies, this research project explores the ways in which migrant self-organizations and trade unions interacted during the 1970s and 1980s. Its interdisciplinary research team is located at the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) of the University of Osnabrück and the Institute for Cultural Anthropology / European Ethnology of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. The team collaborates closely with local research partners and with the Documentation Centre and Museum of Migration in Germany (DOMiD).
Migrants have decisively shaped Germany?s recent history. A high percentage of migrant workers organized themselves in unions and their affinity to unionist issues was considerable. According to each specific situation, migrant actors sought to collaborate with unions, demanded the representation of their specific interests by the unions or organized independently from unions. This research project is interested in how migrant self-organizations related to unions and if and how unions took up organized migrants? concerns. Especially in the 1970s and 1980s German trade unions positioned themselves ambivalently towards the demands of migrant workers and questions of migration. The unionist aspiration to represent all workers clashed with the protectionist fear of competition on the labour market, political suspicion against migrant self-organizations and controversial debates on migration. The research interest in the 1970s and 1980s is due to the fact that both decades witnessed specific, formative, yet under-researched developments. Central to the research project is a focus on the local level as the space where concrete collaboration and lived solidarities occurred and had a high impact on the overall organizational and political processes. The aim is not only to fill this research gap, but also to secure historic resources in order to make them available to the public. The trade unions? relation towards questions of migration has not always been easy. Therefore, an analysis of the social relations between organized migrant positions and trade unions offers an opportunity to influence and shape future trade-unionist perspectives and positions in a society of which migration is constitutive.


Prof. Dr. Helen Schwenken, IMIS, Universität Osnabrück

Prof. Dr. Sabine Hess, Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen,

Study Hamburg:
Anne Lisa Carstensen, IMIS, Universität Osnabrück,

Study Offenbach:
Bernd Schneider, freiberuflicher Sozialwissenschaftler,

Study Stuttgart:
Lisa Riedner, Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen,

Duration: Februar 2017 bis April 2019

Funded by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung