Labour Movement Action Against Free Trade in the Americas: A "Tale" of Two Campaigns

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Diego AZZI, Federal University of ABC (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Brazil
This paper presents a comparative analysis about the building process of two major anti­-free trade campaigns, in which the labour movement has played a key role: the Continental Campaign against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), that took place during the 90s and early 2000s; and the Continental Campaign for Democracy and against Neoliberalism,­ ongoing since late 2016, that­ mixes an anti­-free trade agenda with the broader opposition to the recent right-­wing rise in the Americas.

The work focuses on both the broad political context in which these campaigns have emerged and unfolded - a state-centered approach -, as well as on issues concerning non-state actors in general and the labour movement in particular - alliance building strategies, repertoirs of action, the relations towards national governments and the construction of alternatives "from below". Through this double perspective, this paper highlights the main differences and similarities between the two campaigns.

The methodology is based on research of scientific literature, trade union official documents and publications; as well as governmental documentation and news from mainstream media. Qualitative interviews with trade unionists and social activists in the region who are/were active in both campaigns are explored in addition to the collected data.

The final considerations point out to the fact that at the present time - in a context of right-wing rise and a "race to the bottom" in labour rights - new and different challenges arise for the workers' struggle, making it much harder to repeat the building of a broad and strong hemispheric alliance in the Americas led by the labour movement. However, the negative social effects of the conservative-neoliberal comeback might be the unforeseen ignition that will strenghten social resistance again in the near future - as it once did in the late 1990s.