Unionization without Bosses: Informal Workers' Organizing in Argentina

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Ruth FELDER, University at Albany. SUNY, USA
Viviana PATRONI, Department of Social Science. York University, Canada
After the crisis of neoliberal reforms in Argentina, in the early 2000s the economy recovered, and this in turn secured a reduction in unemployment, robust job creation and salary rises for many workers. However, after 10 years of growth, a third of workers remained informal and a larger number worked in insecure and precarious conditions. A sizeable portion of the workers has stayed outside of the circuits of accumulation within the formal economy. For them, economic growth has brought few changes, except for the inclusion in some social assistance programs. They have also remained marginal to traditional forms of union organizing, as the struggle against precariousness has not occupied a primary position in unions’ negotiations with employers and the government. These workers, however, have started to experience with novel forms of organization and mobilization.

Our paper will consider the experience of the Confederacion de Trabajadores de la Economia Popular (CTEP Confederation of Popular Economy Workers), which has developed in the early 2010s with the purpose of organizing member of work cooperatives, self-employed and informal workers in diverse economic sectors and activities. CTEP aims at creating works for precarious workers, gaining recognition as a union and bargaining with the state.

Our paper will explore the organizational innovation, the connections with previous forms of employed and unemployed workers organizing and the challenges facing an organization that attempts to fight for working conditions and income for workers who do not formally work for an employer. We will also analyze the implications of the fact that organizing is for this sector a form of creating jobs and at the same time a form of representation and struggle and of addressing issues pertaining to the social reproduction and access to services for these workers.