Mexican Labor Unions and Economic Reforms Over the Past 20 Years
Since labor unions in Mexico were originally formed in the early 1900s, they have maintained a unique system of collaboration and collusion with the government of Mexico. Though many may refer to their system as one of “corruption,” it is a system that has become so deeply imbedded in the relationship between labor unions and the government, that it is now a well-understood unofficial network. Over the past 20 years in Mexico, a great deal of progress has been made toward the liberalization of the Mexican markets. Previously government-owned companies have been privatized, foreign investment has boomed, and a once one-party system has just recently produced its first democratically elected opposing party president. But how helpful have the labor unions been to this progress? Generally, labor unions would be one of a society’s greatest opponents to such things as privatization, causing many difficulties to the progress of the economy, however in the case of Mexico, I contend that labor unions have, in fact, been a beneficial component to the progress. The unions have contributed through their collaboration with the government, their suppression of wages, their maintenance of a balanced governmental system, and their contributions to democracy. Though it cannot be claimed that all of their contributions to the economic development of the past 20 years in Mexico has been positive, it can be claimed that Mexico’s unique style of government-labor union coordination has acted in many unusually beneficial ways.
LABOR UNION HISTORY:
Up until 1931, no organized labor union had ever been recognized by the Mexican government. In fact, under the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz labor unions had been completely prohibited. However, shortly before his fall from power, in 1910, there existed several attempts by workers to organize including a violent mining strike in early 1906. Following the fall of Díaz in 1911, the ban on labor unions was lifted, and several unions began to develop throughout the country. The close interaction between government officials and labor union officials began early in the history of labor unions in Mexico. Starting in 1914, during the revolution in Mexico, an established labor organization, the Casa del Obrero Mundial, agreed to fight for the side of the Mexican President, under the condition that he promise to help them organize branches of their unions in every city that was conquered (Otero, 1999). The government and unions remained loyal to one another until a protest occurred in 1916 by the union, demanding wages to be paid in gold or silver. Carranza arrested the leaders of the protest, and began the support of a new labor union, the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM), under the condition that they would be subservient to the government.
By the time an actual labor law was established in 1931, it was no...