Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism and Regional Economic Integration: An Analysis of Strategic Orientations to Transnational Dockworker Coordination in Latin America

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Caitlin FOX-HODESS, UC Berkeley, USA
Comparative research at the regional level can help elucidate the greater challenges that workers in the Global South face in coordinating international action relative to workers in the Global North, as well as the logics behind different strategic orientations to international work. While labor internationalism in the transport sector in Latin America during the Cold War was largely the prerogative of State Department and CIA funded initiatives to further the interests of US imperialism (and rank-and-file efforts to resist those initiatives), today new initiatives are emerging to take their place. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which continues to suffer heavy reputational damage for its on-going role in supporting conservative unions in the region, has seen its standing among Latin American dockworkers diminish as the International Dockworkers Council, a newer organization, avowedly rank-and-file led, militant and politically left-wing, has quickly grown its membership throughout the region in recent years. Yet, while the IDC enjoys robust participation and action in Europe, attempts to stimulate similar develops in Latin America have met with far greater challenges and less success. European dockworkers’ strong and sustained coordination at the European level relative to Latin American dockworkers is the result not only of greater resources, but also of the far greater incentives provided by the unified regulatory framework imposed through the European Union. Despite the increasing economic integration brought about through MERCOSUR, a similar logic for cooperation of shared regional governance is still lacking in Latin America. Latin American dockworkers instead see greater strategic value in solidarity from powerful U.S. dockworker unions than within-region solidarity. Nevertheless, Latin American dockworkers emphasized multiple potential benefits of increased coordination at the Latin American level, ranging from political and economic pressure on states and employers to information sharing and achieving political goals beyond the workplace.