The constitution, federal legislation, and government regulations contain provisions designed to
protect the right of employees to form and join independent unions of their choice.
The overwhelming majority of unionized workers is a member of one of the eight largest unions –
largely grouped by industry or service sector – which are affiliates of the German Trade Union
Federation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB). Several smaller unions exist outside the
DGB. Trade union membership has, however, continued to decline, a trend that accelerated in
the 1990s partly because of a sharp fall in manufacturing employment in Eastern Germany after
reunification. In 2011, less than 18% of the workforce was organized into unions.
Since peaking at around 12 million members shortly after German reunification, total DGB union membership
has steadily declined to 6.14 million in 2013.