Global Union Networks: The Brazilian Recent Experience

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Leonardo MELLO E SILVA, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
In the globalization context, networking organization has become an influential idea as a possible path for renewing social movements. The widespread access to information technologies supposedly allowed a more agile, democratic and horizontal organization, which is also potentially more adapted to the conditions of a global capitalism. Trade unionism is not exempt to these developments. The purpose of the paper is to present how the union networks are organized in practice in transnationals operating in Brazil. The union networks organize workers within the same transnational company spread over in different production units around the globe. Today, these networks constitute a more or less homogenous and consolidated union strategy in the country. The research tried to address the following issues: the specificity of the union networks in the Brazilian context; the expectations of the social actors in relation to this policy; the impact of international coordination for local organization and, furthermore, to ascertain to what extent the general optimist view is confirmed in practice. The research consists of 34 semi-structured interviews with unionists separated into two groups: leaders of national and international unions that formulate the policy of the networks, on the one hand, and those responsible for the networks on the shop floor. Documentary analysis was also utilized. Fourteen major transnational corporations operating in Brazil were chosen in the chemical and metalwork sectors. The paper covers the specificities, potentialities, and challenges of those union networks. How has the participation of Brazilian unions in international networks improved its position towards the company? How networks can react to the restructuring process? What is the relationship of the network with subcontracted workers? How do the networks influence the structure of the national organization of trade unions? Finally, we made a balance sheet showing the main difficulties for union networks in Brazil.