Graciela Bensusán and Kevin J. Middlebrook. Published 2012. ISBN 9780956754929
This book examines the changes, continuities and contradictions characterizing labour politics in Mexico since the 1980s. As a consequence of market-liberalizing reforms and historic shifts in government policy toward organized labour, the labour movement has declined substantially in size, bargaining strength and political influence. Electoral democratization has expanded individual workers’ choices at the ballot box and increased political pluralism in the labour movement. Some unions have also bolstered their power resources by forging transnational alliances with counterparts in Canada and the United States. On the whole, however, democratization has had remarkably little impact on the state-labour relations regime institutionalized following the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20. This legal regime both underpins the position of unrepresentative union leaders and grants government officials highly discretionary control over the formation of unions, the election of union leaders and unions’ actions. The combination of weakened labour organizations, unaccountable union leaders and strong government controls fundamentally constrains workers’ capacity to defend their interests. This state of affairs — and especially the failure to enact progressive labour law reform since democratic regime change in 2000 — limits democracy and imposes heavy costs on both unionized workers and Mexican society as a whole. By engaging debates concerning organized labour’s role in democratization, and by demonstrating the essential compatibility between market-focused economic policies and state-labour practices rooted in Mexico’s authoritarian past, this book contributes to a broader assessment of organized labour’s role in contemporary Latin America.
Graciela Bensusán is Research Professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco in Mexico City and Research Professor (part-time) at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales-México.
Kevin J. Middlebrook is Professor of Politics at the Institute for the Study of the Americas (School of Advanced Study), University of London.