Accueil » 61-4 ( 2006) » Le renouveau syndical au Mexique sous le premier gouvernement de transition

Le renouveau syndical au Mexique sous le premier gouvernement de transition

Graciela Bensusán


Partant de l’ascension au pouvoir d’un nouveau parti politique au Mexique en l’an 2000, cet article s’intéresse au processus de renouvellement des syndicats, en particulier à leurs capacités de tirer profit des occasions d’action impulsées par ce changement politique. Alors que le mandat du nouveau gouvernement touche à sa fin, force est de constater que le syndicalisme mexicain traverse une période de transition truffée d’incertitudes et de conflits. Plusieurs facteurs confirment la crise du modèle corporatiste et, du même coup, la perte d’influence des syndicats traditionnels et l’essor de nouvelles formes d’action syndicale. Néanmoins, la transition vers des formes de gouvernance démocratiques fondées sur l’autonomie syndicale, la pleine citoyenneté des travailleurs et le principe de l’État de droit demeure incomplète. Il en résulte que la formulation d’un nouveau cadre institutionnel s’avère indispensable à l’émergence d’acteurs syndicaux renouvelés, soucieux de démocratie et de transparence.


Trade Union Renewal in Mexico through the First Government of Transition

In 2000, for the first time in more than seventy years, a candidate from the opposition parties won the presidential election in Mexico against the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institutional). Vicente Fox, from the PAN (Partido Accion Nacional), a party historically geared to questioning the old Mexican political system, won the election. He was solidly rooted in the business community and during his campaign, he pushed forward demands in favour of freedom of association and trade union democracy.

Inasmuch as “trade union corporatism” had been one of the pillars of the old political system, it was expected that the PRI’s defeat would entail greater wear and tear on the leadership of the CT (Congreso del Trabajo), a phenomenon that had become increasingly more evident since the late 80s. The CT is a key organization of the labour movement. Since 1966, its members have included the most important trade union groups, as well as the most powerful national industrial trade unions. In this classic example of corporatist political exchange, union representatives had access to greater financial resources and played an important role within the state administration in return for their cooperation in industrial and political matters. The CT acted like a transmission belt for the PRI, which controlled the levers of the state, and they greatly contributed to the PRI’s electoral hegemony. In particular, the unions exercised a tight control over worker demands. Today the CT is in a state of collapse.

The question that remains to be answered is whether the Fox government has improved the opportunities to renew and renovate trade unionism and to put aside the traditional corporatist practices and inertias. The following issue also needs to be considered: What has been the capacity of the “new trade unionism” to seize such opportunities and stir up the transition towards new forms of democratic governance based on the autonomy of trade union organizations, workers citizenship, and democracy, a process which we label “labour transition.”

With this perspective in mind and within the broader framework of the trends initiated by the political transition of 1988, this article examines the key elements of the structure of political opportunities in which the protagonists of the labour world evolve today. The article also reviews the differential impact of these opportunities on the old and new trade unionism and union responses to the changes process.

The first part of this article presents the context of trade union renewal by identifying the factors which explain the failure of the process of labour transition towards democratic forms of governance. The second part looks at the opportunities created by the political transition and change. The third part analyzes trade union response to the challenges arising from the new context and the endogenous factors which have impacted on their behaviour.

The article concludes that, while opportunities for union renewal increased substantially during the Fox administration (2000-2006), labour transition currently finds itself in a crucial stage of development. The outcome will depend, among other factors, on the capacity of trade unions to take advantage of the present crisis of corporative arrangement and develop new patterns of relations with their regular members, the State, and the employers. The “new trade unionism” has been able to establish its autonomy vis-à-vis government interference, but it has not paid the same kind of attention to internal democracy, transparency, and accountability. The “new trade unionism” has not promoted the participation of the regular members nor sought to replace old trade union resources. For example, it did not invest in organizing campaigns, which depend less on government or company will. As a result, the “new trade unionism” is unable to represent in an efficient manner the interests of the workers in the context of globalization.

Although the result of this process will depend on a combination of factors which are exogenous and endogenous to trade unions, significant evidence confirms that the mechanisms upon which the Mexican labour peace was sustained, not to mention the so called strength of trade union organizations, have ceased to operate effectively. Three key factors reveal this crisis of trade union corporatism: (1) the gradual increase in the autonomy of union leaders vis-à-vis the State apparatus; (2) the weakening of the legitimacy of the national presidency as a reliable arbitrator in settling labour conflicts and trade-union rivalries and disputes; and (3) the increasing role of employers in the control of the organizational process, be it directly or via the mediation of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare of the Fox Administration. This situation allows us to predict that, regardless of the winner of the presidential elections of July 2006, it will be difficult to ignore the need to create alternative forms of labour governance.


Oportunidades de renovación sindical en Mexico bajo el primer gobierno de transición

Este trabajo aborda la capacidad del « nuevo sindicalismo » de sacar provecho de la estructura de oportunidades políticas vigente a fin de impulsar la transición hacia formas de gobernabilidad laboral democráticas. Para lograr la democracia dentro de los sindicatos mexicanos y convertirla en el eje de la renovación, se necesita más que una transformación de estructuras, estrategias y liderazgos. Hace falta ante todo dejar atrás la naturaleza corporativa estatista y, en particular, el carácter coactivo de su afiliación, ya que difícilmente los empresarios entregarán este recurso de poder a sindicatos que no le garanticen su complicidad, algo muy diferente a la cooperación a la que legítimamente hubieran podido aspirar. Pues un nuevo orden institucional resulta ser indispensable para que pueda surgir otro tipo de certezas, gobernabilidad y equilibrios.