Each gild numbered various classes of members, ranging from beginners, or Schiller (corresponding to trade-apprentices), and Schulfreunde (who were equivalent to Gesellen or journeymen), to Meister, a Meister being a poet who was not merely able to write new verses to existing melodies but had himself invented a new melody.
In the 14th century the journeymen or yeomen began to set up fraternities in defence of their rights.
The journeymen combined to protect their special interests, notably as regards hours of work and rates of wages, and they fought with the masters over the labour question in all its aspects.
The resulting struggle of organized bodies of masters and journeymen was widespread throughout western Europe, but it was more prominent in Germany than in France or England.
In England the fraternities of journeymen, after struggling a while for complete independence, seem to have fallen under the supervision and control of the masters' gilds; in other words, they became subsidiary or affiliated organs of the older craft fraternities.