Germany’s Willkommenskultur: Trade Unions, Refugees and Labour Market Integration

Mark Bergfeld


This article investigates the relationship between German trade unions and refugees by focusing on union policies and practices aimed at integrating refugees into the labour market and wider society. Based on web research, newspaper articles, participant observation and internal documents, this article shows that unions follow a “logic of optimisation” in their support of the state’s migration and asylum policies. As employers aim to undermine existing labour standards, unions’ strategies of integration run up against limits. This article further finds that the unions’ positive stance toward refugees is based on Germany’s labour shortage, demographic trends and their commitment to anti-racism.

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Mark Bergfeld
Queen Mary University of London
United Kingdom