Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A union for Argentina's recovered enterprises?

Some of the most importnat umbrella organizations of Argentine workers involved in recovering and co-managing their workspaces include MNER, MNFRT (its website is currently down), and FECOOTRA. They are not traditional unions but rather cooperatively-organized political entities that have emerged rather organically after the first recovered enterprises began to appear in the mid-to-late-1990s. They serve to represent the interests of the protagonists of Argentina's worker recovered enterprises in numerous ways, providing management advice and legal advice; organizing plenaries, conferences, and spaces for voicing the concerns of workers' groups; and offering support and political lobbying when a workspace's employees are considering occupying and expropriating a bankrupted enterprise.

These umbrella workers' groups fill the void left in the workers' control movement by Argentina's traditional unions. Now part of the history of Argentina's most recent experiments with workers' control, recovered enterprises have been mostly abandoned by their traditional unions. This is because traditional unions in Argentina, such as the CGT and even the CTA, consider worker controlled enterprises firms run by "self-employe" "entrepreneurs" (!). Traditional unions have also not managed to -- or not been willing to -- find a significant role in the struggles of co-managed workers' cooperatives once managed by bosses.

In light of traditional union abandoment and apathy, there is now a fledgling proposal in place to start a union specifically for recovered enterprises, microenterprises, and cooperatives in Argentina, called la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Autogestionados, or ANTA (the National Association of Self-Managed Workers). It is situated within the CTA, Argentina's more radical union that emerged as a response to the country's growing precarization of labour and especially as a counter to its biggest and most politically influential union, the CGT. (The CTA, Central of Argentine Workers, is a radical union for employed and unemployed workers formed in 1992; the CGT, General Confederation of Labor, is the Peronist-leaning national umbrella labor organization).

How will this new union work with, or perhaps compete with, organizations such as MNER and MNFRT? This is a development I will definitely be keeping track of.