Mobilizing Strategic Capacity: Logistics and Retail Unions at Walmart Chile

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:20
Oral Presentation
Carolina BANK MUNOZ, Brooklyn College- City Unviersity of New York, USA, Brooklyn College- City University of New York, USA
Chile has long been described as the "cradle of neoliberalism." Its mainstream labor movement severly weakened by changes in the labor law under the dictatorship. Yet there is an emerging labor movement, mobilizing outside of the confines of the main labor federation the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), that is inspiring a new generation of activists. In the last 15 years we've witnessed these activists engage in a series of important labor strikes and mobilizations. A significant subsection of Walmart workers in Chile, belonging to independent labor federations who are part of this movement. These workers have been making unprecedented gains in terms of wages, rights, and working conditions. How do we explain the success of these Chilean workers against Walmart, possibly the most anti-union company in the world? This paper argues that logistics and retail workers in 3 federations are changing conditions at Walmart by mobilizing what Marshall Ganz calls "strategic capacity." These workers have strategic capacity because they have been able to effectively mobilize their associational and structural power in unique ways. A central part of their success is related to building grassroots democratic unions, where workers have a day to day stake in the decision making of their organizations. These unions place a strong emphasis on building power from below and political education, thereby allowing workers to maximize their leverage against Walmart.