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lunes, junio 13, 2005

"Made in Venezuela: The Struggle to Reinvent Venezuelan Labor"

Jonah Gindin has written an article for Monthly Review on the state of Venezuelan unions today. Since that's more or less what I was going to write for their webzine, I'm having to revise my article ideas! At any rate, I recommend it.

In addition to an overview of the labor movement, focused on the CTV's conflicts with Chavez and the emergence of the UNT, he goes through several case studies, which I find more interesting than the generalizations. He discusses three companies where the government's new aim of worker co-management has been tried, going through experiences of worker co-management at state energy company Cadafe, where workers are demanding that the stalled transition to co-management continue; in paper mill Venepal, where workers took over and continued operating the shutdown company, which has now been reopened under worker-comanagement and with state support, but without unions; and state aluminum plant Alcasa, where the government has just begun to install a co-management structure,

There's also a section on unions at Coca-Cola Femsa (Coke's Latin American division):

"In Venezuela, they are not killing union leaders like in Colombia," notes José Cardenal, secretary general of the new union at the company's Valencia, Venezuela branch. "But they have argued legally and judicially to drown those union leaders who are really fighting for workers' rights. They find a way to legally intimidate, threaten, pressure workers when they try to organize, or when they try to claim their legal rights."

Coca-Cola Femsa is just one of a growing number of factories where workers have begun fighting to retake their unions from corrupt leaders on excessively friendly terms with the employers. In 2000, Ford set the precedent, becoming the first factory in the region to have a union referendum. The new union won easily, fueling a growing movement to democratize local unions that has exploded in 2004. Over the past year, Venezuela's twin cities of Valencia and Maracay, the country's manufacturing base, have witnessed eight union referenda, all with new unions coming out on top.

And some of the issues facing the movement:

How can the new federation balance cooperation with the government and union autonomy? How can they achieve worker control that is rooted in the agency of workers, rather than in the benevolence of the state? How can local leaders adequately balance workers' interests with community interests as well as with local and national issues?

All good questions.

Read the full article here.

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