- Union official
- Member of the National Assembly
- Signed the Stinnes-Legien-Agreement in 1919
Legien started his political career in the 1880s as a politician in the SPD and a union official. In 1890, he became chairman of the General Commission of German Trade Unions. At the same time, he worked for the Socialist Federation of Trade Unions, which was later renamed the International Federation of Trade Unions. He became its president in 1913. During the war, he worked to help the Reich leadership’s war policy gain support from the unions, but also demanded concessions from the state. During the post-war revolution, he negotiated the Stinnes-Legien-Agreement with the industrialist Hugo Stinnes. This is considered a watershed moment in German labor law, as unions were recognized for the first time as equal social partners - parties to wage agreements. In 1919, Legien was elected to the National Assembly. In the fight against the Kapp Putsch, he organized the unions’ general strike. Ebert then offered Legien the post of Reichskanzler, which he rejected. He died shortly thereafter.