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Organised Labour and Politics in Mexico

Changes, Continuities and Contradictions

By Graciela Bensusán and Kevin J. Middlebrook

As a consequence of market-oriented reforms and historic shifts in government policy toward labor, the Mexican organized labor movement has declined substantially in size, bargaining strength, and political influence since the 1980s. Democratization has expanded workers’ choices at the ballot box, and some unions have bolstered their position by forging alliances with counterparts in Canada and the United States. By analyzing the changes, continuities, and contradictions characterizing labor politics in Mexico, this book contributes to a broader assessment of organized labor’s role in contemporary Latin America.

Democratization has had remarkably little impact on the state-labor relations regime institutionalized following the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920. This legal regime both underpins the position of unrepresentative union leaders and grants government officials extensive controls over labor organizations. The combination of weakened unions, unaccountable leaders, and strong government controls fundamentally constrains workers’ capacity to defend their interests. This state of affairs—especially the failure to enact progressive labor law reform since democratic regime change in 2000—limits democracy and imposes heavy costs on society as a whole.

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