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Solidarity Transformed

Solidarity Transformed: Labor Responses to Globalization and Crisis in Latin America

Mark S. Anner
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Solidarity Transformed
    Book Description:

    Mark S. Anner spent ten years working with labor unions in Latin America and returned to conduct eighteen months of field research: he found himself in the middle of violent raids, was detained and interrogated in a Salvadoran basement prison cell, and survived a bombing in a union cafeteria. This experience as a participant observer informs and enlivens Solidarity Transformed, an illustrative, nuanced, and insightful account of how labor unions in Latin America are developing new strategies to defend the interests of the workers they represent in dynamic global and local contexts. Anner combines in-depth case studies of the auto and apparel industries in El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, and Argentina with survey analysis. Altogether, he documents approximately seventy labor campaigns-both successful and failed-over a period of twenty years.

    Anner finds that four labor strategies have dominated labor campaigns in recent years: transnational activist campaigns; transnational labor networks; radical flank mechanisms; and microcorporatist worker-employer pacts. The choice of which strategy to pursue is shaped by the structure of global supply chains, access to the domestic political process, and labor identities. Anner's multifaceted approach is both rich in anecdote and supported by quantitative research. The result is a book in which labor activists find new and creative ways to support their members and protect their organizations in the midst of political change, global restructuring, and economic crises.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6057-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  6. Acronyms
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    Two changes—one political and the other economic—have contributed to a dramatic transformation of labor solidarity since the end of the Cold War. The decline in state protection of labor altered the political terrain in which labor operates, and the international restructuring of industry transformed the economic landscape. Protected national industries have been displaced by hyper-competitive production chains that span states and regions, and escalate employers’ proclivity for keeping wages low and unions out.

    To respond effectively to these changes, labor solidarity—how workers and their organizations support each other in pursuit of common goals—would have to be...

  8. 2 Segmented Production, Fragmented Labor
    (pp. 22-51)

    Something changed in the way poor countries produced and distributed goods that had a profound effect on who found employment and who did not, how work was organized, and whether workers could form labor unions and improve their conditions. The sugar processing plant, with its union jobs, living wages, and middle-aged workforce, was part of the old economy. The apparel production, all done under contract for large multinational corporations, was part of the new low-wage, nonunion, young, and mostly female export economy that had swept the region. In this context, the family survival strategy of an unemployed middle-aged worker might...

  9. 3 Transnational Activist Campaigns and the Anti-Sweatshop Movement in El Salvador and Honduras
    (pp. 52-85)

    As I listened to the above exchange at a workshop, I realized how different international labor solidarity had become in under a decade. The main focus was no longer on getting a unionist out of prison or protesting an assassination. It was proactive. It entailed understanding the structure of global supply chains, and it involved new forms of information sharing and coordination. Left-oriented labor activists in Central America began working with U.S., Canadian, and European labor activists to leverage multinational firms into improving conditions at local apparel export factories. They did this by framing the problems faced by garment workers...

  10. 4 Labor’s Radical Flank Mechanism in Central America
    (pp. 86-110)

    While the left-oriented anti-sweatshop movement grew, moderate and conservative unions in Central America remained largely at the margins. This was not a movement that involved them, nor did it seem to concern them. Lingering distrust from the Cold War era and a nationalist orientation made international alliances for them unlikely. Yet, at the same time, the traditional union strategy of achieving benefits and privileges through pacts with government elites was no longer effective. The neoliberal thinking that had encompassed the region left little room for these macro-level, nonmarket mechanisms.

    But what would the new moderate union strategy look like? Like...

  11. 5 Transnational Labor Networks in the Brazilian Auto Industry
    (pp. 111-138)

    Auto unionists, with their large factories, skilled workforce, and stable organizations, are in many ways the polar opposite of the precarious, low-skilled, young, female workforce in the apparel sector. Yet two aspects of left unionism in the sectors are similar. First, traditional left union strategies, such as strikes, are no longer as effective as they once were. Second, one viable alternative strategy involves transnationalism. But what would auto union transnationalism look like in times of globalization and crisis? It would take me numerous trips to Brazil and fourteen months living in the country to get an answer.

    My first major...

  12. 6 Microcorporatism in Argentine and Brazilian Auto Plants
    (pp. 139-165)

    In Brazil there are two prominent auto union organizations, facing the same state structures and the same challenges of international industrial restructuring and economic crises. Yet their strategies could not be more different. As we saw in the previous chapter, for the left, economic globalization increased the likelihood of international labor solidarity. In this chapter I will explore how moderate unionists remained highly distrustful of cross-border collaboration with labor in other countries. Local solutions, “citizen unionism,” and forms of domestic cross-class collaboration were their answers to the challenges.

    Contrast between left and moderate unionists could be found elsewhere in South...

  13. 7 Conclusion Between Solidarity and Fragmentation
    (pp. 166-180)

    One of labor’s most crucial and historic dilemmas has been whether to engage capital narrowly as a group of employees or more broadly as a social class. This dilemma is particularly salient in debates between national and international strategies. Within the heart of labor beat the conflicting forces of parochialism and nationalism, class solidarity and internationalism. No labor organization is free from these tensions, but activists do make choices on how to balance them. And, while it has become fashionable to suggest that labor unions need global strategies to succeed in a global economy, the analysis presented here suggests that...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 181-190)
  15. References
    (pp. 191-204)
  16. Index
    (pp. 205-214)