MANZANO Virginia Lilian
congresos y reuniones científicas
Organizing the Unemployed: Trade Unions, Grassroots Associations and Neoliberal Policies in the Making of the Unemployed Movement in Argentina
Cambridge, Reino Unido
Conferencia; Bread, Freedom and Social Justice. Organised Workers and Mass Mobilization in the Arab World, Europe and Latin America; 2014
Institución organizadora:
University of Cambridge, Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Institute of Latin American Studies, School of Advanced Study University of London
In this paper, I focus on the making of the Unemployment Movements in Argentina, one of the most important social actors within the protest and popular mobilizations that opposed  neoliberalism in 2001. Thousands of people, women and men, adults, young, and children, occupied bridges, roads, squares and public offices in order to demand for food and jobs. To most social researchers, activists and journalists, these protests showed the shaping of a new subject, or new social movement, which emerged in response to the crisis of traditional actors ?notably labor unions and political parties-. In contrast, I contend that members of trade unions and leaders of grassroots associations, in their fought for access to urban land in the 1980s, were active in the organization of unemployed people, eventually contributing to their shaping as a political movement. First, I analyze the role of labor-based and urban poor people?s associations in the making of collective demands for food and jobs as well as popular mobilizations. Members of public- sector trade unions (teachers, nurses and doctors), most of them affiliated to Peronism or Maoism, paved the way for the initial grouping of the unemployed once that unemployment and poverty levels began to rise due to structural adjustments in the early 1990s. For example, along with local leaders and members of ecclesiastical communities (CEBs), they measured unemployment rates in different neighborhoods. In so doing, they made use of classic state tools, such as surveys and census data, and produced unemployment as a social and political category. This action was instrumental in the promotion of an alliance between different actors in order to occupy public spaces to demand the government to provide them access to food and jobs as part of a shared belief in social justice.  Second, I explain how the unemployment movement paradoxically became a central actor   in its connection with the neoliberal state, which transformed the unemployed into the subject of neoliberal public policies. Members of trade unions and local leaders enrolled thousands of unemployed families in state-sponsored rosters in order to obtain small amounts of money as part neoliberal public policies. These policies, called workfare or conditional transfer of income, were financed by World Bank and offered the unemployed families (with children in school age who were supposed to submit tosanitary controls) 50 dollars a month in exchange for daily chores at productive o communitarian projects (popular kitchens, urban infrastructure, small gardens, to name a few). The unemployed movement turned these policies into objects of collective demand and used them in neighborhood everyday life However, these policies were severely criticized because they didn?t represent sources of ?genuine work?.  Finally, the trade unions and the grassroots associations articulated the unemployment Movement with patterns of neoliberal power. In a dialectical way, they confronted neoliberal economic and social reforms and, at the same time, they helped expand neoliberal forms of government over the unemployed. In this paradoxical way, the unemployment movement contributed to the political finale of the neoliberal government and created a new context for popular policies of income redistribution in Argentina.