Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions and Market Reforms in Latin America

Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions and Market Reforms in Latin America

Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions and Market Reforms in Latin America

Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions and Market Reforms in Latin America

Synopsis

Due to economic crises, labor parties followed economic policies that hurt labor unions during the 1990s, such as trade liberalization and privatization. This book explains why labor unions resisted on some occasions and submitted on others and what the consequences of their actions were by studying three countries: Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela. The comparison between the experiences of the three countries and five different sectors in each country shows the importance of politics in explaining labor reactions and their effects on economic policies.

Excerpt

The despotism of the leaders does not arise solely from a vulgar lust of power or from uncontrolled egoism, but is often the outcome of a profound and sincere conviction of their own value and of the services which they have rendered to the common cause. Robert Michels (1966)

This chapter presents the theory that explains the interaction between labor unions and labor-based governments implementing market reforms. the interaction between unions and governments involves the reaction — either militancy or restraint — of labor unions to market reforms and the government's response in the form of concessions. Militancy is the most common measurement of union behavior and refers to organized protests disrupting production or governance. Although militancy is usually measured by counting the number, duration, or scope of strikes, repertoires of protest vary depending on cultural legacies, institutional opportunities, and political resources. Alternative repertoires of protests include, among others, threats to strike, demonstrations, boycotts, sabotage, hunger strikes, and sit-ins. in 1997, Argentine teachers shifted their strategy of protest from strikes and demonstrations to scheduled hunger strikes accompanied by scattered solidarity pop concerts facing the National Congress. in 1992, after the failure of strikes and demonstrations, Ford Motors' workers in Mexico decided to attract public attention by “streaking” through the offices of the Labor Arbitration Committee.

The interaction does not end with union militancy or restraint because the government can respond by granting or refusing the concessions demanded by labor. Because militancy is costly for unions, union leaders prefer to threaten industrial action rather than to actually exercise . . .

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