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From Militancy to Clientelism: Labor Union Strategies and Membership Trajectories in

Contemporary Chile
Author(s): Indira Palacios-Valladares
Source: Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Summer 2010), pp. 73-102
Published by: Distributed by Wiley on behalf of the Center for Latin American Studies at the
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FromMilitancyto Clientelism:
Labor UnionStrategiesand
Trajectories
Membership
in Contemporary
Chile
IndiraPalacios-Valladares
ABSTRACT
For the past 30 years, Chilean unionism has been shrinking.
of 26 unions
Througha comparisonof the membershiptrajectories
in two firmsbetween 1990 and 2004,thisarticleexplainswhy some
unions defied this trend and how theirsuccess affectedoverall
union densityin theirfirms.It argues thatthe unions thatexperienced the mostfavorablemembershipoutcomeswere those that,at
earliest or most aggressively
key juncturesof firmrestructuring,
establisheda partnershiprelationshipwithmanagement.However,
in a contextof greatlabor weakness, these cases of union accommodation took the form of exclusive patron-clientexchanges,
which exacerbated collectiveaction problems and furthereroded
union density.

in Latin
labor movements
consideredone of the strongest
in
Chilean
unionism
the
three
has,
decades,experiAmerica,
past
enced sustainedmembership
shrinkage.The largestdrop occurred
undermilitary
rule,whenuniondensitydeclinedby almosthalfcom1999,15). However,
paredto theearly1970s(Angeli1972,45; Radrign
to democcontinuedafterthereturn
thetrendtowarddeunionization
droppedbya third
racyin 1990:between1991and 2007,uniondensity
(Direccindel Trabajon.d.,7).
declinewas initially
relatedto the
Althoughunion membership
politicalrepressionthat accompaniedthe 1973 coup, it became
of neoliberal
entrenched
afterthe military
regime'simplementation
in the1980s.Unions'initialreactionto thesereforms
reforms
structural
thelabor
fueledmassoppositionto theregimeand helpedreorganize
union
movement
1986).However,byincreasing
(Camperoand Cortzar
inthelongrun,the1980sreforms
andjob precariousness,
fragmentation
members.
Modestchangesduring
weakenedunioncapacityto recruit
did not substantively
alterthissituation
the democratic
posttransition
(Cook 2007;Frank2004;Haagh2002).1
decline has significant
Union membership
beyond
implications
thatorganizea large
unions.Allthingsbeingequal, labormovements
arelikelyto imposesignificant
oftheworkforce
productionproportion
2010University
ofMiami

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74

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

also have a
Largelabor organizations
stoppagecosts on employers.
This
for
electoral
mobilization.
explainswhyhighunion
strong
potential
with
the
of
is
associated
adoption labor-friendly
policies,
density usually
and theearlyexpansionof democracy
low incomeinequality,
(Rueda
et al. 1992).
and Pontusson2000;Rueschemeyer
literature
on Chileanunionismmakes some
The contemporary
contributions
to
the
decline,but
topicof unionmembership
important
in twoways.Forone, itfocusesheavilyon nationalorganitis limited
to thefirmlevel.
whiledevotinglittleattention
izationsand dynamics
In
firm-level
unions
Thisis an important
70
organizeroughly
gap. Chile,
del
Fewer
unionized
workers
of
all
(Direccin Trabajon.d.).2
percent
thanhalfof theseworkersare organizedin unionsthatare federated,
in unionsthatbelong
and onlya littlemorethana quarterparticipate
Since
thereis also varito a nationalconfederation
(Arrieta
2003,12).
across
and
within
sectors(Salinero
in
decline
ance unionmembership
on
firm-level
unions
would
focus
B. 2006,68), a stronger
yielda better
ofChileanunionism.
understanding
of contemporary
researchon Chileanunion
The secondlimitation
causes.A numberof studies
declineis itsstrongemphasison structural
on
andeconomicrestructuring
ofthelegalframework
examinetheeffects
uniondecline(Barrera1998;Espinosa1996;GonzlezSantibez1998,
behind
Montero
2002).Otherslook at thebroaderpolitical
explanations
of unionsto changethiscontext(Cook 2007;Frank2004;
theinability
Withtheexception
Haagh2002).Fewerstudiesexamineunionstrategy.
of Frank2002 and Rojasand Aravena1999,theworksthatdo discuss
butdo notstudythe
unionstrategy
description
providerichempirical
In contrast,
manner.
decisionsin a systematic
rootsor impactofstrategic
studiesaboutlaborelsewherein LatinAmera number
ofcontemporary
and
focuson unionstrategies
bothat thefirm
ica puta strong
analytical
level (Anner2003;Armbruster-Sandoval
2003;Burgess2004;
suprafirm
andWay1998;Murillo
Frundt
2003).
2001;Williams
2002;Levitsky
labor
This articleseeks to advance the studyof contemporary
unionstrategy,
theeffects
offirm-level
unionsbyexamining
particularly
on the abilityof organized
strategies,
union-management
partnership
In doingso itseekstoshedmorelighton submembers.
laborto recruit
and to contribute
to a growing
in Chileanunionism,
nationalvariation
uniondynamics.Chileoffersa great
on firm-level
regionalliterature
in thisregardbecauseitshighdegreeofunionbargaining
opportunity
locus of unionactivity
has made thefirmtheprimary
decentralization
and fragIn addition,
in thatcountry.
highlevelsofunioncompetition
therelative
succase foranalyzing
makeChilean interesting
mentation
to neoliberalreform.
unionadaptations
cess ofdifferent
inthememthecausesofintrafirm
variation
The articleinvestigates
sectorservof26 Chileanunionsintwolargeprivate
bershiptrajectories

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

75

ice firms
between1990and 2004.It answerstwoquestions:Whywere
someoftheseunionsable to increasemembership?
Did theirindividual
success help boost union densitymore broadlyin theirfirms?
The
in
this
forth
is
that
differences
individual
union
argument studyputs
withregardto management
strategy
played a key role in shaping
in unionmembership
intrafirm
variation
unions
Specifically,
trajectories.
thatgrewwere thosethat,at criticaljuncturesof firmrestructuring,
accommodatedmanagement
demandsearliestor most aggressively,
a
kind
of partnership
In doingso,
effectively
establishing
relationship.
in
theseunionssecureda privileged
the
a
over
firm,monopoly
presence
and
exclusive
into
the
allocafirm-level
bargaining
arrangements,
input
some
tionofjob lossesor otheremployment-related
policies.Although
in thefirm,
nevertheoutcomeswerelaterextendedto all workers
they
theunions'capacityto deal effectively
withmanageless demonstrated
unionsa recruiting
ment.Thisgave moreaccommodating
edge.
In a contextcharacterized
and great
by strongfirmrestructuring
the
same
that
unionstructural
weakness,however,
strategies helpedindimembers
tended
to
undermine
overallunionstrength
vidualunionsgain
found
themselves
ineffective
in thefirm.
unions
Isolated,moremilitant
vulnerable
to unionraiding.Fortheirpart,moreaccomand therefore
from
themore
from
theoutflow
ofmembers
unions,benefiting
modating
to reachoutto unorganized
workers.
Theresult
militant
unions,didlittle
unionfacwas a decreasein overalluniondensity,
alongwithgreater
whichdimmedtheprospects
forfuture
coordination.
tionalism,
union
These findings
suggestthateven in a contextof structural
unionstrategies
weaknesslikethatofChile,individual
mayplaya key
outcomes.However,
role in shapingfavorableindividual
membership
and implications
of collaboration
theyalso suggestthatthe character
withmanagement
are highlydependenton the broaderinstitutional,
and economiccontextin whichtheyoccur.
political,
behind
Thisarticlewill proceedto discussthe mainexplanations
in therelevant
uniondeclinein Chileand to situateitsown arguments
Itthendiscussesthelogicoftheresearch
literature.
designand therepaccountof unionmembership
of thecases. A narrative
resentativeness
ineachofthefirms
understudyis followedbyan analysisof
trajectories
individual
unionmembership
thevariablesthatinfluenced
trajectories.
sectiondiscussesthebroaderimplications
ofthefindings
Theconcluding
in Chile.
and unionrevitalization
forquestionsofincomedistribution

Theoretical Perspectives on Contemporary


Union MembershipDecline
A numberof scholarshave pointedout thatthe elite-accommodating
loosenedunions'ties
character
ofthe1990Chileandemocratic
transition

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thepoliticalinfluto politicalpartiesand thestatewhilestrengthening


ence of business(Frank2004; Garretn1994; Moulin 1997; Silva
transition
1997).3Thus,althoughthedemocratic
opened opportunities
de Trafororganizedlabor,peak laborunionsliketheCentralUnitaria
the
broader
economic
and
instihad
(CUT)
difficulty
shaping
bajadores
In particular,
thismeantthatsubstancontextofunionactivity.
tutional
tiallaborreform
stayedoffthepoliticalagenda(Cook 2007;Frank2004;
2002).
Haagh
Chileanunions
As a result,duringthe democratic
posttransition,
to operatein a laborrelations
framework
thattendsto
have continued
thelaw allowsan
weakenthem(Cook 2007;Haagh2002).Forinstance,
withineach
unlimited
numberof unionand paraunionorganizations
In addifirmand makessuprafirm
voluntary.
negotiations
exclusively
strikes
and can
can
substitute
and
fire
workers
tion,employers
during
declarelockouts,and workerscan drop out of strikes.Researchhas
hinderunion monopolypower,invite
shown thatthese institutions
increase
unionrivalry
andfragmentation,
effective
employer
opposition,
and are generallyassociated with union membershipshrinkage
and Visser1999,144-45,151-54;Scruggsand Lange2002,
(Ebbinghaus
Western
138;
1995,186).
contextof unionismis important
for
The politicaland institutional
in
relations
in
but
since
it
is
Chile,
understanding
generaltrends labor
at thesubnational
constant
level,itdoes notexplainthevarirelatively
of union
ationthisstudyis concernedwith.Two otherexplanations
variation
in unionmemberdeclinecan potentially
explainsubnational
and unionstrategy.
ship:laborrestructuring
thenegaChileanstudiesemphasizing
laborrestructuring
highlight
on unionmembership.4
tiveimpactof layoffs
and job precariousness
and the
Thegeneralargument
buildson theidea thatdeindustrialization
constituenoftheservicesectorhaveerodedunions'traditional
growth
ofunionizathesize ofgroupswithless tradition
cies whileincreasing
tion (Barrera1998; De la Maza 1999,385-87; Escobar1999,23-39;
it
GonzlezSantibez1998,61; Radrigan1999,61). Morespecifically,
crisesofthemid-and
is arguedthatemployer
responsesto thefinancial
massivelayoffs,
late 1990striggered
which,by decreasingthe size of
to employer
intimidation
or paterleftworkersmorevulnerable
firms,
nalismand therefore
less proneto unionize(Espinosa 1996,48-49;
Montero2002,108; Rojas and Aravena1999,140-46).Withregardto
is thatmoreatypical
forms
ofemployment
laborflexibility,
theargument
have led to a loweringin the qualityof employment
arrangements,
and an increasein subcontracting
(Sehnbruch
greaterlaborturnover,
fearof unemployment
and theprecariousness
of jobs
2006).Workers'
have made it moredifficult
forunionsto overcomecollectiveaction
problems(Aravena1999;Montero2002,103-6).

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

77

variationin firmThe literature


suggeststhatthereis subnational
and Collier(2007)
levellaborrestructuring.
For instance,Etchemendy
and laborflexibility)
contendthatlaborrationalization
(including
layoffs
in Argentina
varieswithinsectors.According
to theseauthors,
thisvariin
In
differences
union
the
Chilean
ationpartly
case,
explains
strength.
and intrafirm
variationin labor
Herrera(1995, 90) findsintrasector
withinand across firms,
we should expect
Therefore,
restructuring.
unions organizingoccupationalgroups of workerswho are more
losses.
affected
by thesetrendsto experiencehighermembership
Anotherset of explanationsdeals withunionstrategy.
Campero
(1998),Frias(1998),and Frank(2002) argue,forexample,thatserious
and rigidorganizational
structures
madeitdiffidivisionsoverstrategy
cultforpeak laborunionsto pursuean agendathatwas coherentand
of this
economicrealities.The implication
relevantto contemporary
had
to
come
with
their
own
is thatfirm-level
unions
up
ways
argument
of the Chilean
of copingwithchanges.Giventhehighfragmentation
in unionstratvariation
we shouldexpectsignificant
labormovement,
union
level.No systematic
studyof firm-level
egy at the subnational
outsideof Chile
has been published,however.In contrast,
strategies
This
unionstrategy.
thereis a wealthofstudiesthatfocuson firm-level
ofthe
has contributed
to ourunderstanding
literature
insights
important
unionstrategies,
successofparticular
relative
especiallyunionorganizwith
and partnership
ing, coalitionbuilding,internalrestructuring,
management.
showthatindividual
unionsthatdevote
Studiesofunionorganizing
resourcesto largegrassroots
campaignsare betterable to
significant
and Hickey
reverseor containdeclinesin membership
(Bronfenbrenner
2004;Heeryand Adler2004,64). However,such studiesalso suggest
economicand human
that many individualunions lack sufficient
at organizing
resourcesto runlargeand sustainedefforts
unorganized
andVoss2004,4) and that
workers
(HeeryandAdler2004,64; Milkman
ofnewconstituencies
successful
changes
requiressignificant
organizing
in decisionmaking
whichmanyunionleadersresist(Sharpe
structures,
it is notuncommonthatindividual
2004;Yates2003,236). Therefore,
a pheunionorganizing
campaignstargetalreadyunionizedworkers,
and Voss2004,6).
nomenonknownas unionraiding(Milkman
at forming
Otherstudieshave examinedunionefforts
community
In
allianceswithotherunionsor socialmovements.
and cross-national
have
made
inroads
into
unions
that
have
done
this
countries,
developed
new constituencies
(Kochanet al. 2004).In theLatinAmerican
context,
thatcoalitionbuildingallowsunionsto makeconflicts
studiesconfirm
but they
concessions,and increaseaffiliation,
visible,gain short-term
also indicatethatin thelongrun,manyofthesecampaignsend in facand
lack of enforcement
of bargaining
agreements,
toryrelocation,

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workerlayoffs
(Anner2003; Armbruster-Sandoval
2003; Frundt2002;
Williams
and
Gordon
2003).
2000;
Jessup
A thirdset of studieshas examinedunion efforts
to restructure
unionorganization.
Threeformsofinternal
organizational
restructuring
seemto havea positiveeffect
on unionmembership:
(Behrens
mergers
et al. 2004,131), the introduction
of participatory
formsof decisionintheunion
1993,280;Wells1993,306),and shifts
making(Saint-Pierre
to
include
the
needs
of
new
constituencies
(Carmichael
2004;
agenda
Hbert1993,103; Milkman1993; Strachanand Burgess2004). These
studiesindicate,however,that few unions adopt these strategies
becausetheyentaildramatic
changesin unionpowerstructures.
ofunionstrategy
Students
havealso paid attention
to theeffects
of
unionbargaining
on
union
Debate
has
focused
strategies
membership.
on thebenefits
of engagingin cooperative
or pitfalls
relapartnership
with
firm
at
the
level.5
Some
scholars
view
tionships management
partas positiveforunions.AckersandPayne(1998)argue,
nership
strategies
forexample,thatpartnership
is a formof accommodation
in which
in thecrafting
unionsare activeparticipants
of firmand nationalpoliciesaffecting
them.Fichter
and Greer(2004)andTerry
(2004)arguethat
in a contextof decentralized
bargaining,
partnership
mayboostunion
whenaccompaniedby autonomoussourcesof legitimacy
membership
in theworkplace.Otherscholarsargue,in contrast,
thatunion-managementpartnership
amountsto unionco-optation
(Kelly1996).
laborrestructuring
could potentially
in
Although
explainvariation
unionmembership,
thisstudyfindsthatstrategic
choicesmadebyunion
leadersat crucialmomentsof firmrestructuring
werethemajordeterminantsof intrafirm
variation
in unionmembership
in the
trajectories
cases examined.Thisfinding
underscores
theutility
of union-managementpartnership
unions.Unionsthatenjoyed
approachesforindividual
themostsuccessin recruiting
membersin thesamplewerethosethat,
at certainkey moments,pursuedan assertivepartnership
strategy
towardmanagement.
Atthesame time,however,thisstudyhighlights
thelimitations
of
in contexts
characterized
partnership
strategies
by highunionfragmentationand weak laborbargaining
power.In suchsettings,
partnership,
even if successfulforsome individualunions,expressesthe overall
weaknessofunionscomparedto employers
and tendsto perpetuate
or
evendeepenthatweaknessbydiminishing
theefficacy
ofmilitancy,
setthe development
of
tingone unionagainstanother,and hampering
more comprehensive
and innovativestrategicapproachesto union
In thiscontext,
recruitment.
workersmaymigrate
fromone unionto
butorganizedlaboras a wholedoes notgrowstronger.
another,

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

79

Research Design
Thisstudyadoptsa "mostsimilarcases"comparative
researchstrategy.
Thisstrategy
consistsofselecting
variation
cases thatpresentsignificant
on the dependentvariablebut similarvalues on all but one or two
variables(Georgeand Bennett2005,50). Itsvalueis thatit
explanatory
in which
allowstheresearcher
to establishmorecontrolsin situations
variables
are
at
work
and
to
isolate
of
variables
multiple
specialtheoreticalinterest.
The researchdesignof thisstudycontrolsfornational,
and somepotentially
firm-level
variables(including
sectoral,
competing
skilloftheworkforce,
laborflexibility,
leveland typeofcollective
barunion
to
members
with
substantive
size
benefits,
gaining,
ability provide
ofthefirm,
laborrestructuring),
whileallowing
and,to a certainextent,
variation
on one keyvariable:unionstrategy.
Thefindings
arebasedon a totalof30 open-ended
andin-depth
interviewswithunionleadersand firm
as
well
as
fieldofficers,
ethnographic
all
conducted
The
research
in a
2004.
covers
unions
13
work,
during
ina telecommunications
Chileanbankandan equalnumber
firm.
Because
theinterviews
weresecuredwitha promise
ofanonymity,
thisstudydoes
thenamesofthefirms,
theunions,ortheinterviewees.
notidentify
In someways,theunionsin thisstudyare atypicalin Chile.They
inwhichunionaffiliation
is relatively
operateinfirms
high.In bothfirms,
net
union
between
and
almosttripledthe
2004
1990
average
density
nationalaveragefortheperiod(14.4percent).
also
They
operatein contextsin whicha largenumberof unionscompete.6
In thebank,where
unionscrossoccupational
lines,all unionscompeteforthesamemembers.In the telecommunications
whereunionsorganizeworkers
firm,
tendstobe lower
lines,unioncompetition
exclusively
alongoccupational
unionsbutveryhighamongblue-collar
unions.
amongwhite-collar
The cases are nonetheless
in
unionism
fairly
typicalofthestronger
in largefirms.
Chile,whichis concentrated
Largefirms
represent
only
buttheyaccountfor46.5 percentof
4.7 percentofChileanbusinesses,
totalemployment
tend
(Direccindel Trabajo2007,17-20).Thesefirms
to be muchmoreunionizedthantheaveragefirm.
In fact,almosthalf
oflargefirms
haveat leastone union,comparedto 3-9percentofsmall
thelargerthefirm,
thelargerthenumberofunionsin it(Direcfirms;
cindel Trabajo2007,79).
As is oftenthe case amongunionsin largefirms,
the ones under
oflabororganization,
a skilledconstituency,
studyherehavea tradition
and professional
unionleaderswithpoliticalconbenefits,
membership
nectionsto center-left
Similar
to otherrelatively
parties.7
strongunions,
thosein thefirms
coveredin thisarticlenegotiated
convenios
(voluntary
butlegallybinding
betweenworkers
andemployers),
instead
agreements
ofthetraditional
formal
collective
whicharemorewidelyused
contracts,

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theunionsinthisstudyfacechallenges
byunionsinChile.8Furthermore,
thatarefamiliar
in bothlargeand medium-sized
to manyworkers
firms,
suchas increasing
the
ofparallel,
moreprejob instability; mushrooming
cariousforms
ofemployment;
laborrationalization;
and shifts
to systems
ofjob compensation
thatarevariableand tiedto performance.
The sectorsanalyzedhereare important
and growingareasof the
Chileaneconomy.Combined,
thefinancial
and
and telecommunications
make
of
sectors
transportation
up almost18 percent the workforce
in the
(Banco Centraln.d.). Between1990 and 2008, employment
telecommunications
subsector
saw an increaseofabout78 percent,
while
inthefinancial
subsector
(BancoCentral
n.d.).Thereemployment
tripled
havefuture
forgrowth.
fore,unionsin thesesubsectors
opportunities

Union MembershipTrajectories: The Bank


Between1990and 2004,overalluniondensity
declinedbya littlemore
thana quarterin thisfirm.Six unions,designated
in table1 as Unions
of growth.Some of
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8, exhibiteda positivetrajectory
these(Unions1, 3, 4, and 5) sharedthesame steadygrowthin membershipsince 1990; others(Unions 2 and 8) experienceddramatic
unionshad an overall
growthbetween2000 and 2002.The remaining
of decline.Some,likeUnions6 and 7, experienced
mostof
trajectory
theirlossesintheearlyand mid-1990s.
likeUnions9, 10,11,12,
Others,
and 13, experiencedmajormembership
losses after2003.All unions
were cross-occupational
that
organizations competedfor the same
members.
In 1990thebankhad six unions(1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 13). Allofthem
willbe designated
whichhereafter
Federabelongedto one federation,
on
tion1. At the time,thisfederation
and
benefits
negotiated
wages
behalfofall unionizedworkers.
The 1990bargaining
moveto
agendawas drivenby management's
makepartofworkers'earningscontingent
on individual
performance.
l's initialresponsewas to rejectmanagement's
Federation
proposaland
demand higherwage readjustments.
and the
stalled,
Negotiations
unionsstageda massivestrike(interviews
1.5, 1.14).Although
initially
theunionsseemedto be gainingconcessions,afterthe sixthday the
firmhardeneditsposition.Federation
1 rapidlydecidedto accommodatemanagement
demandsand calledoffthestrike.
Workers
extracted
a generouscashbonusanda higher
and
than
benefit
wage
readjustment
in
theone originally
the
but
the
the
strucfirm,
proposedby
changes
tureof compensation
held.The agreement
proposedby management
was signedforfouryearsinsteadofthetraditional
two.Thissettlement
established
thefoundation
of a partnership
in whichFedrelationship
in mostfirmdecisionsinvolving
eration1 participated
labor and, in

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81

PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

in theBank,
Table 1. LaborUnionMembership
Trajectories
c. 1990-2004
WorkersUnionized
Union

1990

2004

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
Total

200
70
175
100
66
800
300
650
150
150
1,400
1,500
250
5,811

738
707
300
115
68
180
150
810
130
110
267
130
211
3,916

Difference
538
637
125
15
2
-620
-150
160
-20
-40
-1,133
-1,370
-39
-1,895

Share of the Workforce(%)


1990a

2004

Difference

2
1
2
1
1
10
4
8
2
2
17
19
3
72

10
9.60
4.10
1.60
0.90
2.40
2
11
1.80
1.50
3.70
1.80
2.90
53.5

7.5
8.7
1.9
0.4
0.3
-7.6
-1.7
2.9
-0.1
-0.4
-13.7
-16.9
-.02
-18.5

aThiscolumnis calculatedoverthe combinedworkforce


of all the banksin which
theunionsoperatedat thetime.
data providedby unionleaders.The numberof workersper
Sources:Membership
firmis based on unpublisheddata fromthe Superintendencia
de Bancos e Instituciones.The figures
includefull-time
workersdirectly
employedbythefirmand some
subcontracted
workers.

unionrestraint
in firm
and collaboration
restructurexchange,delivered
1.1,1.5,1.14).
ing(interviews
Union6, previously
thelargestand mostdominant
unionin Federation1 and theone thathad been thevisibleleaderofworkermobilizationduringthestrike,
and leftthefederation.
rejectedtheagreement
to extract
concessionsfrommanageIsolated,Union6 founditdifficult
mentand,duringthenextthreeyears,lostclose to halfitsmembers
to
themoreaccommodating
unions(interview
1.5). Unions1 and 3 capturedmostoftheselosses(interviews
1.11,1.12,1.13,1.15).
In 1994thebankunderwent
a merger.
As a result,itinherited
two
moreunions(Unions7 and 12). Bothweresolidorganizations,
and one
(Union12) was verymilitant
(interview
1.1). In 1994,Union12 joined
Federation
rela1, whileUnion7, whoseleadershad somewhatdistant
tionswiththeleadersofUnion12,chosenotto do so. Union7's decision not to join Federation1 involvedvigorousinternal
debate.Outworkers
who supported
theunion'sinclusionin Federation
numbered,
1 leftforunionsthatwerepartofthatfederation
(interview
1.7).
The merger
coincidedwitha newbargaining
round.Management's
goals forthatyearwereto controlupwardpressureson thecollective

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82

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

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extenditforanotherfouryears,trimsomelabor
settlement,
bargaining
redundancies
fromthemerger,
and expandsubcontracting
and
resulting
otherformsoflaborflexibility,
suchas temporary
contracts
and contin(interview
1.1).
gentcompensation
1
Federation
had
establisheda close and highlyinstituBy then,
tionalized
withmanagement.
Sincetheprevious
partnership
relationship
it
had
collaborated
with
in
thenew
year,
actively
management drafting
convenio(interviews
its
leaders
1.1, 1.15). Moreover,
enjoyedeasy
accessto thetopmanagement,
whichallowedunionsin thefederation
to offerquickresolution
to theirconstituents'
everyday
problems.The
in 1994coveredfouryears
agreement
finally
signedby thefederation
and includeda generous,
one-time
cashbonus,as wellas somemodest
wage increasesin boththe fixedand variablepartsof thewages. In
the criteria
forallocating
addition,Federation1 informally
negotiated
forworkerslaid offand workers
job losses,generouscompensation
who acceptedoffers
ofearlyretirement,
and somekindofjob continuationforworkersin areasbeingsubcontracted
(interviews
1.14,1.15).
thenopenednegotiations
withUnions6 and 7. Both
Management
had been excludedfromthe earlydrafting
of collectivebargaining
andhad had little
to no inputon theallocation
ofjob losses.
agreements
Leadersof thesetwo unionsthought,
however,that,giventhe firm's
in recentyearsand theimprovement
of
strongeconomicperformance
relationsbetweenleadersof Union 6 and management,
theycould
a higherwage readjustment
thantheone achievedby Federnegotiate
ation1 (interviews
but
1.5, 1.7). The two unionsnegotiated
together
weretoo smallto offer
real
to
ended
any
challenge management.
They
up signingthe same agreement
negotiated
by Federation1. The firm
extendedthesameconditions
to all workers,
butFederasubsequently
tion1 amplypublicizedthepointthatithad been a keyplayerbehind
theagreement.
Similar
occurredin 1998and 2000.
dynamics
Unableto shapethebargaining
Unions6 and 7 focused
dynamics,
theirefforts
on recruiting
members(interviews
1.5, 1.7). Thisyielded
somepositive
results:
bothunionswereabletorecoversomepriormembers.Organizing
drivesweremodestand short,however,and did not
workers.Therefore,
neitherof these
systematically
targetunorganized
unionswas able to recoverpreviousmembership
levels.Thetwounions
also undertook
talksaboutmerging
to boostunionmembership,
butat
leastas of2004thisidea had notbecomea reality
(interviews
1.5,1.7).
In 2000thebankbegana new merger,
in 2002.
whichculminated
The newlyincorporated
bankhad been one ofthethreelargestin the
It had a strongtradition
of unionismand an amalgamated
country.
union(Union11) thatin 1997had led an aggressive,
militant
campaign
and had achievedone of the bestcollectivecontracts
in the industry
less militant,
theotherfourunions(Unions
duringthe1990s.Although

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES:
CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

83

2, 8, 9, and 10) werealso strong.Untiltheirarrivalin thebankunder


ofmembership
stastudy,thesefiveunionsshareda generaltrajectory
1.2,1.8,1.9,1.10).
bility(interviews
1. In
ofFederation
Mostoftheincoming
unionleaderswerecritical
1 came acrossas defending
initialconversations,
leadersof Federation
and offering
inclusionin thefederation
personalpositionsof privilege
underconditions
of subordination
ratherthancooperation(interviews
all theunionsexceptUnion2 (at thetimeone
1.2,1.8,1.9).As a result,
ofthesmallestunionsin thefirm)refusedto join.9Union2 soughtout
1 as an opportunity
to grow(interview
Federation
1.16).
1 was a conspicuouspresence
Between2000and 2002,Federation
in thefirm.
Itsleadersfrequently
appearedin thecompanyofmanageworkers
to joinwith
thefirm's
ment,promoting
policiesand motivating
in makingthefirmsuccessful.
By thenthelogo,website,
management
1 closelyresembledthefirm's
and overallimageof Federation
corporateimage.
Duringthisperiod,the big debatebetweenunionsand manageIn 2000
mentconcernedthetrimming
ofmerger-induced
redundancies.
thatspareditsmembers
Federation1 securedan informal
agreement
iftheyshowedgood performance
and negotiated
a new
fromlayoffs
similar
to the1994agreeconvenio(interview
1.14).Theseagreements,
unionizedor
whether
ment,wereextendedto therestoftheworkers,
not.Newcomers
weremorelikelyto have lowerevaluationsimmedito job loss.
and therefore
to be morevulnerable
atelyafterthemerger
was supposedto takeplace after
evaluation
However,becausethefirst
in thefirm.
Once
twoyears,manynewworkers
foundaccommodation
1
how
its
had
benefited
Federation
negotiations
again,
amplypublicized
workers.
evenunaffiliated
In 2003,Federation
1 succeededinnegotiating
readwageandbenefit
above
the
The
collec1.15).
(interview
slightly
industry
average
justments
of thepreviousones since
tivebargaining
processfollowedthepattern
1
was
the
first
to
a
collective
Federation
1990.
settlement,
sign
bargaining
withmansixmonths,
ithadbeenjointly
which,fortheprevious
crafting
Nonfederated
unions
tried
to
negotiate
higherwage readjustagement.
butwerelargely
unsuccessful.
As a unionleaderrecounted,
ments,
We[Unions8, 9, and 10]didnotwantto signan agreement
we had
notnegotiated,
butthefirm
justignoredus. Theytoldus to present
did.Butwhenwe wentto discuss
ourproposal,whichwe actually
1 thereforus to sign.They
ittheyhad thedocument
ofFederation
addeda fewclauseswe wanted,butwe did notlikehow thefirm
1.10)
proceeded,(interview

All the nonfederated


unionleadersinitially
resistedmanagement's
to signthedocument
1,butthey
alreadysignedbyFederation
pressures

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84

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

facedsignificant
pressuresfromtheirown rankand fileto acceptthe
to
conditions
offered
(interviews
1.9,1.10).10
According
bymanagement
One was thatmembers
unionleaders,thiswas theresultoftwofactors.
unionshad a hardtimeadaptingto thefirmbecause
of theincoming
as significantly
wereperceived
newworkdemandsandpressures
greater
Theotherreason,one
banks(interviews
thanintheoriginal
1.9).
1.2,1.8,
thataffected
new and old unions,was thattheagreement
negotiated
by
Chileanstandards.
1 was attractive
Federation
by contemporary
Mostunionsgave in to rank-and-file
pressuresas soon as they
losses or even threatsof massive
startedto experiencemembership
defection
(interviews
1.8, 1.9). Union11, at thetimethe
membership
three
offered
thelongestopposition,
of
the
nonfederated
unions,
largest
five
the
union
lost
its
that
to
months.
leaders,during period
According
divisions
internal
and
hundredmembers
(interexperiencedpainful
losseswerecaptured
halfofthesemembership
views1.2,1.8).Roughly
1. According
to one ofthefederation's
leaders,
byunionsin Federation
thosepotentialmembers:
theirunionsdid notneed to activelyrecruit
We
"We[leadersof Federation
1] are managersof success,notconflict.
with
has a lotofinfluence
don'tneedto seekpeopleout.Ourpresident
theadministration"
1.14).
(interview
The otherhalfofthelosseswerecapturedbyUnion8, a nonfederated union(interviews
1.2, 1.8). Union8's success,in turn,was the
ofthenonfederated
unions
Itwas amongthefirst
resultoftwofactors.
to signthe2003convenio.In doingso, itwas able to add somemodest
whichwerelater
toitsversionofthecollective
benefits
contract,
specific
divias
a
result
of internal
In
Unions
and
10.
to
9
addition,
expanded
sionsa couple of monthsbeforethe collectivebargaining
process,a
seniorunionleaderhad organizeda recruiting
campaignto boosthis
This
the
union
within
(interview
1.8).
yieldedonlymodestmempower
withinthefirm.
Union
better
known
made
the
union
but
bershipgains
ofUnion
to seekpriormembers
had a uniqueopportunity
8, moreover,
11 becauseitoffered
similarly
generousbenefits.11
the
collective
2003
bargaining
processand a seriesof
Following
12 and 13 leftFedin
Federation
Unions
internal
1,
leadership
disputes
Union11. Thesethreeunionscreated
eration1 andjoinedtheincoming
federation.
a new and moremilitant
During2004,thenew federation
askedforfundsallegedlyowed
forunfair
laborpractices,
sued thefirm
andtriedto nullify
theconthe
toworkers,
building,
picketed corporate
1.
as partofFederation
veniotheyhad agreedon previously
This behaviorwas not well receivedby management
(interviews
hardenedtheirpositions,
1.3,1.4,1.6).As unionsin thenew federation
circulated
theymet increasedresistancefromthe firm.Management
and
as treasonous,
leadersinthisfederation
memosdenouncing
internal
non1 did thesame.Although
Federation
unhappywithmanagement,

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

85

unionsalso rejectedthebehaviorofthenewfederation.
federated
Many
was suicidal
that
giventhe successof Federation1, militancy
argued
(interviews
1.5, 1.8). Some also feltthatthelawsuitspresented
by the
did nothavea solidbasis(interviews
newfederation
1.10).
1.9,
Joining
cost Union12 close to a thirdof itsmembership
the new federation
was stillUnion11,the
1.3).The hardesthitunion,however,
(interview
2 (interviews
mostvocaloftheunionsin Federation
1.3,1.5,1.17).

The Telecommunications Firm


declinedbyalmosta fifth
Between1990and 2004,overalluniondensity
in thisfirm.Two unions,Unions1 and 5, experiencedgrowth.Until
2002,theseunionssharedwiththeotherunionsthesamemembership
until1999,followedbydecline.After
2002,however,
stability
trajectory:
and grewdramatically.
theseunionsbrokewiththe typicaltrajectory
ofloss(see table2). Two
Therestoftheunionshad an overalltrajectory
of these(Unions2 and 10) appearto have expandedtheirshareof
in the firm's
the sharpshrinkage
but thisreflects
unionizedworkers,
Unionswereorganizedalongoccurather
thanrealgrowth.
workforce
compationallines.Unions4 and 5, whichorganizedprofessionals,
Unions
members.
the
same
for
12,
8,
9,
10,
11,
1,
6,
7,
Likewise,
peted
workersand technicians,
and 13, whichorganizedskilledblue-collar
competedamongthemselves.
Between1990and 1998,thetelecomfirm
pursueda gradualadjustto technological
mentoftheworkforce
changesand marketliberalizamanthe 1980s,a decade markedby adversarial
tion.After
relations,
accommodation
these
workers
and
changesthrough
sought
agement
for
(interviews2.8, 2.11, 2.12). Unions exchangedwage restraint
allocation
in managerial
involvement
decisions,layoffcompensations,
Allunions
of areasto be subcontracted.
of job losses,and negotiation
wielded
but
the
werepresentat thebargaining
8)
(Union
table,
largest
In
union
leaders
moreinfluence
(interviews
2.3, 2.10, 2.11). general,
a
of
this
situation
as
(interviews
2.9,
system cogovernance
perceived
2.11,2.12).
in
ofnegotiating
thetradition
unionscontinued
individual
Although
ofallunionstogether
smallblocsoftwoorthreeunions,theparticipation
oftheconvecreatedone blueprint
document
in drafting
thebargaining
unions
individual
nio (interview
2.4). Although
staged
theycooperated,
issuesorto accelerate
smallstoppagestonegotiate
routine
speparticular
the blueprint's
cificnegotiations
appendixes.These strikes
regarding
successful
tendedtobe veryshortandsmall,butrelatively
(interviews
2.3,
and
this
between
As
a
result
of
1990
2.8).
1999,unionssucdynamic,
forworkers
and manconditions
bettercollective
ceededin negotiating
coordination.
interunion
short-term
instrumental
to
establish
aged

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86

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

Table2. LaborUnionMembership
in the
Trajectories
Telecommunications
1990-2004
Firm,
WorkersUnionized
Union

1990

2004

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
Total

700
190
600
1,100
40
130
85
1,700
300
25
585
500
600
6,555

1,473
186
219
190
111
2
7
24
3
16
23
31
50
2,335

Difference
773
-21
-381
-910
71
-128
-78
-1,676
-297
-9
-562
-469
-550
-4,220

Share of the Workforce(%)


1990

2004

7.0
2.0
6.5
11.9
0.4
7.6
0.9
18.4
33
0.3
6.3
5.4
6.5
76.5

39.3
5
5.8
5.1
3
0.1
0.2
0.6
0.1
0.4
.6
.8
1.3
62.3

Difference
31.8
2.8
-0.7
-6.9
2.5
-1.4
-0.7
-17.8
-3.2
0.2
-5.7
-4.6
-5.2
-14.2

Source:Membership
data providedby unionleaders.The workforce
foreach yearis
whichincludeonlyfull-time
based on thefirm'sannualreports,
employeesdirectly
hiredby thefirm.

The union-management
established
in the1990s,howpartnership
was
not
without
tensions.
In
intraunion
ever,
particular,
significant
debatetook place about how faraccommodation
shouldgo. Several
unionleadersbecameincreasingly
wary.Theyarguedthatlaborunions
a fight
weregivingup job security
without
becausethesystem
allowed
formereconsultation
ratherthancogovernanceand the preference
to co-optunions(intergivento someleaderswas a managerial
strategy
view2.3). As a result,
someprominent
leaderslefttheirunionsto form
new ones (Unions3, 5, 10, and 12). Thisfragmented
theunionstructureand reducedthe unions'averagesize. Despitetheirrhetoric,
in
stance.
practicetheseunionsdid notadopta moremilitant
These problemsnotwithstanding,
duringthe collectivebargaining
processof 1998,workersmadeimportant
gains.The agreement
signed
thatyearraisedmanybenefits
and leveledwages,so thatall workers
in
thesameoccupational
sharedthesamesalary.On top ofthis,
category
unionsnegotiated
to be appendedto theirindividual
specificbenefits
Thisnegotiation
collectivecontracts.
was, accordingto unionleaders,
thebestsince 1986(interviews
2.7, 2.10,2.11,2.12). In regardto the
allocationof job losses,thisagreement
led management
to continue
across
the
gradualjob shedding
company,
usuallygenerously
compensatedand voluntary.
Boththemoreaccommodating
and themorecrit-

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

87

in theprocessand signedthe same blueprint


ical unionsparticipated
agreement.
traBetween1990and 1998,unionsshareda similarmembership
in
overall
some
losses
but
characterized
stability regardto
by
jectory,
The exceptions
wereUnions6 and
eachunion'sshareoftheworkforce.
workers
whose
functions
had been elimiwhich
7,
organizedmostly
at
that
timea gradual
in
These
unions
had
nated the1980s.
negotiated
the
by 1991;during periodofthis
sheddingofthosejobs,to be finalized
study,theysaw verylittleactivity.
betweenunions
The year1999markedtheend ofthehoneymoon
It also markedthe beginningof a trendtoward
and management.
differentiation
ofunionstrategy.
increasing
and thetopmaneconomicsituation,
The firm
was in a precarious
to downsize
agementchanged.The new teamhad a mandateradically
and was perceivedas highly
Itsapproachwas quiteaggressive
thefirm.
authoritarian
byunionleaders,who,untilthen,had been used to giving
decisions(interviews
2.7,2.8, 2.11,2.12).The
inputon suchimportant
and offered
teamignoredtheunionsaltogether
incoming
management
Moreimportant,
between1999and 2002,management
no concessions.
delayedpaymentof manyof the benefitsin the 1998 convenioand
no compensation
threemassiveroundsof layoffs,
undertook
offering
was
to downsize
minimum.
Each
the
requested
department
beyond legal
no union
same
the
itsinternal
Thus,
percentage.
occupational
groupsby
in
losses.
As
the
membership
previousperiod,between
escapedpainful
did
not
1999and 2002,membership
varysignificantly.
trajectory
workerswould be called by their
Duringthe waves of layoffs,
whetheror not theywould be
everyFridayand informed
supervisor
in
between
left
the
tears
fired.
(interview
2.10).Relations
Many
premises
deteriorated
as manysupervisors
workersand supervisors
adopteda
thatcreatedan atmosphere
offearand dis"takeitor leave it"attitude
in thefirm(interview
2.10).In thewordsofa firmofficer,
engagement
where
whatthefirm
Thefirm
hasshifted
a culture
awayfrom
gave
workers'
mattered
themosttooneinwhich
totheworker
attitudes,
This
and trust
makethedifference.
collaboration
withthefirm,
ofworkers.
Wearethusinforming
meanstransforming
themindset
abouttheshiftfromtenured
workers
and new recruits
job to
that
will
be
based
on
internal
We
stress
ability."
wages
"employ
andfirm
(Interview
2.4)
equity
competitiveness.
Notsurprisingly,
theconflict
escalatedin 2002,theyearthe 1998
convenioexpired.Management
proposing
approachedthenegotiation
further
wage and benefitcuts.Allunionsunitedto rejectthisproposal
in the history
committee
and foundedthelargestunioncoordination
of thecompany,callinga massivestrikethatlasted28 daysand cap-

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88

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

turedthemedia'sattention
(interviews
2.11,2.14). Of theunionscoveredhere,onlyUnions3, 5, and 6, whichhad negotiated
earlier,did
notparticipate.
almostall unionizedworkersjoinedit,the strikewas a
Although
failure.
Workers
wereunableto stopthefirm
fromfunctioning
normally
2002
the
firm
had
outsourcedand sub(interview
2.2). By
completely
contracted
functions
relatedto the maintenance
of infrastructure
and
of
customer
services
and
had
also
automated
its
provision
plants.Thus,
mostofthedailyprovision
ofserviceswas alreadyperformed
remotely.
The firmalso hiredsubstitute
and offered
customers
workers,
experiwiththeirphoneservicenew cell phonesand other
encingdifficulties
forms
ofcompensation.
leadersofUnion8
moreover,
Duringthestrike,
werequestionedbythepoliceunderallegations
ofsabotaging
thefirm,
whichis a crimethatfallsunderChile'santiterrorist
law (interview
2.14).
As thedaysof thestrikepassed,thefirmremainedinflexible
and
seemedwilling
toabsorbanylosstoavoidgiving
intoworkers'
demands.
tounionleaders,thisintimidated
workers
(interviews
2.7,2.10,
According
thestrike,
to theirjobs.Union2,
2.12).Halfway
through
manyreturned
whichorganizedwhite-collar
was thefirst
to defect,and
professionals,
was followed
union(interview
2.10).Defections
byUnion1,a blue-collar
so thatbythe28thdayofthestrike,
unionleadersdecidedto
continued,
callitoff.Bythen,Union2, representing
and supervitopprofessionals
withthefirm.
It endedup accepting
the
sors,had openednegotiations
cuts(interview
2.10).Thismadeitclearto theotherunionsthatthefirm
was determined
notto givein to anyoftheirdemands,makingacceptance of the cutsa precondition
forfurther
The remaining
negotiation.
unionsrejected
demandsandusedArticle
369oftheLabor
management's
Lawtoextendtheirpreviouscollective
foranother
18 months.
agreement
Article
workers
whenlabornegotiations
stalland manage369 protects
mentis seekingcutsto thecollective
agreement.
In 2003,fivemoreunions(1, 4, 5, 6, and 7) also acceptedthecuts.
inpractice
wereindividual,
theseunionsendedup
Although
negotiations
withone commoncollective
contract
structure
(interview
2.6).According
to the mainleaderof Union1, theydecidedto abandonArticle369
because"Peopleweredisillusioned
afterthestrike,
and we wereafraid
thatourpeopleweregoingtojoinparaunion
bargaining
groups.Thefirm
also seemedmoreopen to talk"(interview
Unions8, 9,
2.9). In contrast,
timebyextending
10,11,12,and 13decidedtobidetheir
againtheir1998
collective
contract
underArticle
369 (interviews
2.3,2.5,2.8).
all theunionsthatnegotiated
after2002stoppedmassive
Although
defection
and recaptured
some members,
onlyUnions1 and 5 grew.
Thesetwounionsdidnotundertake
instead,
organizing
they
campaigns;
benefited
froma uniquestatus:theyweretheonlyunionsin thisgroup
thatcompetedwithotherunions.Union1 competedwithall theblue-

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

89

collar unions and Union 5 competed with Union 4, a more combative


professionalunion. Althoughthey,like all the otherunions thatnegotiated, lost manybenefitsand were unable to stop job losses, theywere
granteda few privileges:theirleaders had more access to management
for resolving everyday problems, participatedwith management in
seminarsand careerdevelopmentprograms,and had
developingtraining
modestsuccess reachinginformalagreementsto delay or slow job losses
(interviews2.9, 2.13). The remainingaccommodatingunions, which
mostlyorganizedprofessionals,never soughtthis kind of relationship,
instead focusingexclusivelyon findingformulasto compensate wage
and benefitlosses fortheirmembers(interviews2.10, 2.11).
Firmofficers
were veryoutspokenin theirsupportforUnions 1 and
5. They appeared publiclysupportiveespeciallyof Union 1, the larger
of the two and the only accommodatingblue-collarunion. Between
2003 and 2004, managementshowcased Union 1 in the firmas a good
example of partnershipwith workers.Accordingto the firm'shuman
resourcesmanager,
Unionsthatdo betterin thisfirmare thosethathave leadersthat
thebusiness.Forexample,we heartheleaderofUnion
understand
insteadoftenure.
ofemployment"
1 speakingaboutthe"probability
willgetstreamlined
Thatmakesa lotofsensebecausethecontracts
all fixedcosts.Theothersjust
. ..we willeliminate
andmoreflexible
don'tgetit.(Interview
2.4)
In contrast,managementcirculated a series of internalmemos
againstunionsunderArticle369 (Unions 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13). Alienated and facingincreased managementhostility,these unions had to
settle each of theirdemands throughthe courts (interviews2.3, 2.8,
led many
2.10, 2.11). Despite some legal victories,managementhostility
workersto leave these unions. Since by 2003 most of these workers
were blue-collarand Union 1 was the only blue-collarunion on good
termswith management,the lattercapitalized on most of these losses
(interviews2.1, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9).

Explaining Variation in Union Membership


Trajectories
This studyhas sought to understandwhy, between 1990 and 2004 in
two large privatesector firms,some unions experienced membership
growthwhile othersdid not, and whetherindividualsuccess translated
union density.
into overallincreasesin firm-level
Withregardto the firstof these questions,the literatureidentifies
and union strategy.In
two possible explanations:labor restructuring
influencedthe reiin
could
have
variation
labor
restructuring
principle,

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LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

orincreasing
theirmemunionsinmaintaining
ativesuccessofdifferent
indicates
thatin the
evidence
marshaled
The
here,
however,
berships.
variation
occurredin theexposure
interunion
twocases,no significant
ofunionsto laborrestructuring.
characand cross-departmental
In thebank,thecross-occupational
of job losses,and therelative
character
terof unions,themerit-based
acrossthefirm
meantthatunionsweresimevennessoflaborflexibility
There
affected
labor
restructuring. was, however,significant
ilarly
by
in unionstrategy.
Thisvariation
variation
arguably
explainsinterunion
in membership
variation
trajectory.
in thetelecommunicaBetween1990and 2004,laborrestructuring
tionsfirmalso had a comparableimpactacrossunions.From1990to
outcomeswerealso relaand unionmembership
2002,unionstrategies
and 2004,therewas sigIn
between
2002
tively
homogeneous. contrast,
outin
union
and membership
nificant
interunion
variation
strategy
continued
to
becamemoreintensebut
comes,whilelaborrestructuring
even acrossunions.Thus the evidencesuggeststhatthe
be relatively
in membership
between1990
variation
mainfactor
explaining
trajectory
in regardto management.
in unionstrategies
and 2004was variation
to
unionsresortto a variety
ofstrategies
As theliterature
indicates,
the most commonof which involverecruiting
boost membership,
strateand partnership
drives,coalitionbuilding,mergers,
bargaining
intheareaofunion
thecase studiessuggestlittleactivity
gies.Although
in theareasof coalitionbuilding
organizing
campaignsand no activity
or internal
theyindicatethatunionsthatgrewwerethose
restructuring,
accommodated
of firmrestructuring,
that,at critical
managejunctures
a partlaterestablishing
ment'sdemandsearliestor mostaggressively,
In a situation
ofgreatimbalance
withmanagement.
nershiprelationship
this partnership
in the power of unions relativeto management,
in exchangeformodestparand cooperation
involvedunionrestraint
ticularistic
benefitsthatgave these unionsa competitive
edge over
others.The logic of such strategicchoice resembleda "prisoner's
in whichthoseunionsthatdefectedfirst
dilemma,"
gotthebestresults.
were
In thebank,unionsthatexperienced
growthin membership
those belongingto Federation1, along withUnion8. Federation1
the
accommodated
and supportedmanagement's
plans to restructure
in 1990 afterthe
systemand increaselabor flexibility
compensation
It also delivered
and in 1994and 2002afterimportant
strike,
mergers.
bargaining
processes,beginning
duringall thecollective
wage restraint
l's leadersexcluoffered
Federation
in 1990.In exchange,management
and subcontracting
such as a voice in layoffs
sive informal
benefits,
decisions,monopolyoverthe collectivebargaining
process,and easy
had
In general,
unionsinthisfederation
officers.
accesstotopcorporate
a steadyupwardmembership
trajectory.

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91

Union8, whichwas notpartof Federation


mostof
1, experienced
after2003.Although
notcooperative
to thedegreethatFeditsgrowth
eration1 was,in2003Union8 was thefirst
ofthenewunionsto accommodatemanagement,
other
similar
unions to followsuit.
signaling
this
did
not
the
union
all
the
informal
benefits
Although
bring
enjoyed
Federation
Union
8
was
able
to
some
modestbenefits
1,
negotiate
by
and itsleadersgainedeasyaccessto higherexecutives,
foritsmembers,
thatsimilar
unionshad moredifficulty
something
doing.Thismadethe
unionattractive
to potential
membersrecently
arrivedin thefirm,
and
a middle-of-the-road
at the same timerepresented
alternative
to the
1 and themilitant
Federation
2.
Federation
accommodating
In thecase ofthetelecommunications
twounionsexperienced
firm,
unions
growthafter2002,Unions1 and 5. Theywereamongthefirst
thataccommodated
demandsin 2002 and weretheonly
management
These
unionsthatcompetedwithothersformembers.
accommodating
at a verydifficult
of
unionsexperienced
management
hostility
juncture
and subsequently
relations
becamemanagement's
worker-management
in training
policies.Unlikethebank,whichhad seen variation
partner
in unionstrategies
and individual
unionmembership
since
trajectories
in thefirm
becamesignificant
1990,thisvariation
onlyafter2002.Howbetween
ever,despitethe shorterperiod involved,the relationship
unionstrategic
choice and membership
outcomeis even clearer:the
unionsenjoyedimportant
twomostaccommodating
membership
gains
at thedirectexpenseoftheircompetitors.
In a contextof significant
job losses,risingworkdemands,and
and politicalsupportforunions,privileged
weak institutional
managementrecognition
thatenhancedthecapacity
resources
yieldedpractical
oftheseunionsto deliverbenefits
to theirconstituents
and gave more
unions
a
over
other
unions.
accommodating
competitive
edge
Although
someofthesegainsweresubsequently
extendedto otherworkers,
they
thattheunionswere on good termswithmanagement,
demonstrated
whichcould potentially
meanindividual
fromjob losses or
protection
faster
solutionsto workplaceproblems.
Fieldinterviews
suggestthatin
mostcases, workersthemselves
out
unions
that
would offer
sought
themmorepractical
and
them
as
guarantees identify
good "teamplaytheir
for
and
ers," increasing
opportunities long-term
employment
In contrast,
careeradvancement.12
workersabandonedunionsthathad
adversarial
relations
withmanagement.
The factthatonlya handfulof
unions(Unions6 and 7 in thebank) devotedresourcesto organizing
withmodestresults,
indicatesthestrongimpactthatmancampaigns,
had
on
worker
to join particular
unions
agementsupport
disposition
overothers.
Moremilitant
unions(e.g.,Unions11 and 12 inthebankand Union
8 in thetelecommunications
manfirm)or unionsthataccommodated

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92

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

agementdemandslateron (e.g.,Unions6 and 7 in thebankand Union


4 in thetelecommunications
firm)experienced
and,in
marginalization
This
fostered
somecases,management
resentment
toward
persecution.
and
the
more
unions
and
decreased
the
management
accommodating
of
union
more
militant
unions
isolated
coordination,
possibilities
leaving
and ineffective
and therefore
morevulnerableto unionraiding.The
iconicexamplesofthiswereUnions6 and 11 in thebank,whichlosta
in theearly1990sand dramatically
numberofmembers
after
significant
in
and
Union
8
the
telecommunications
which
2003,respectively,
firm,
lostmassivenumbers
ofmembers
after2002.
Whydid some unionsrefuseto accommodatedespitethe harsh
The fieldinterviews
suggestthreereasons.One was that
consequences?
thedynamics
ofadversarial
relations
nurtured
highlevelsofmutualaniand distrust
betweenunionsand management
thatweredifficult
mosity
to overcomeonce established.As adversarialrelationsevolved,the
dividebecameincreasingly
emotional
overpersonaland had important
tonesforunionleaders(interviews
1.3,2.8). The secondreasonhad to
do withthe objectiveconditionsof certainunions.For smallunions
the costs of accommodationoutorganizingolder constituencies,
becausetheconcessionsdemandedby
weighedthecostsof militancy,
involvedsmallerretirement
funds(interview
2.10).
management
A third
reasonwas thatsomeunionleaderscalculated
thatthefirm's
successultimately
of labor
long-term
dependedon the collaboration
and thattheyhad enoughresourcesto resistmanagement
intimidation
fora fewyears(interview
the
2.12). Duringthatperiod,theythought,
team
would
have
to
to
one
better
dismanagement
change,givingway
their
posed towardunions.In the absence of management
hostility,
unionswould have an advantagein luringmembersback precisely
because theyhad keptthe older,moregenerouscollectivecontracts.
to theleadersofmoreaccommodating
Thus,similar
unions,manymilsurvival.13
itantleaders'mainconcernwas institutional
in strategic
and
Differences
calculationbetweenaccommodating
militant
unionleadersdo notappearto havebeen rootedin age, partiThe interviews
san affiliation,
or anyotherobjectivecondition.
suggest
insteadthattheyreflected
the mostinfluential
union leaders'career
experiencesand the varyinglessonstheyderivedfromthoseexperiences. As a unionleaderstated,"We'velearnedthatwe cannotfight
windmills
because workersare not interested.
Yes, I am promanageif
the
firm
does
we
do
well.
We'vedecidedto be
because
well,
ment,
shield.
If
attacks
their
management's
somebody
policiesit'sas iftheyare
them"
because
we've
(interview
1.14).
us,
attacking
helpedshape
As thisarticle's
actively
findings
suggest,
employers
soughtto shape
to their
theirrelations
withindividual
unionsin waysthatcontributed
own objectiveofmaximizing
and
forced
union
leaders
to
make
profits,

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

93

decisions.Employers
did not,however,selecta prioriwhich
strategic
treatment
and becomeprivileged
unionswouldreceivemorefavorable
relations
withindividual
Their
choices
regarding
negotiating
partners.
union
leadersat critiunionswereshapedbythestrategies
adoptedby
Some
union
leaders
chose
to accomcal moments
offirm
restructuring.
modatemanagement's
demandsforchange,while othersvowed to
own bargaining
resist.These choices,in turn,shaped management's
unions.
towardindividual
strategies
Withregardto the second question,whetherindividualsuccess
uniondensity,
thefindings
translated
intooverallincreasesin firm-level
some relativesuccessfor
of thisstudyindicatethatdespitebringing
of partnership
accommodation
did not
individual
unions,the strategy
level.Moremilitant
unions
translate
intouniondensity
gainsat thefirm
of laborrelaalienatedfromthenormalframework
foundthemselves
factionalism.
Meanwhile,
tions,whichincreasedinter-and intraunion
the more successfulunionsexpandedtheirmembership
by raiding
to organizethe unorhad littleincentive
otherunions,and therefore
ganized.Thus, althoughsome unionsexperiencedabsolutegrowth
declined.
overall,uniondensity
Scholarsdifferin theirevaluationsof the effectsof partnership
The conventional
wisdomamongChilean
on unionstrength.
strategies
center-left
and
some
officials,
parties,
employersin this
government
ensuresa combihas
been
that
union-management
partnership
regard
and organizedlaborvoice on key
nationof stablefirmperformance
accuratewhereunions
thisperspective
issues.Although
maybe roughly
a very
and organizationally
this
arelegallystrong
unified, studysuggests
in
Where
unions
are
the
Chilean
context.
different
institutionally
reality
weak, lack a strongpoliticalvoice, and face increasing
employment
efforts
strategies
maywellrepresent
byunionsto
instability,
partnership
ties
verticalpatron-client
advancetheirown narrowinterests
through
laborsolithatoperateat theexpenseof otherunionsand undermine
In thelongrun,suchtiescould also potentially
weakenmore
darity.14
unions
them
dependenton
accommodating
by making
increasingly
This
favor
as
a
source
of
legitimacy. dependency,as
management's
unionleadersopenlyrecognized,
some of the moreaccommodating
toward
made themvulnerableto changesin management
disposition
unionsdowntheroad(interview
1.14).

Beyond Union Decline


weaknessoflaborinconThisstudyhas emphasizedhowthestructural
the
kinds
of
Chile
thatbringmembership
strategies
temporary
shapes
successto individual
unionsand howthosestrategies
affect
recruitment
uniondensity.Two broaderissuesare tiedto the questionof union

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94

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betweenuniondeclineand theperweakness.One is therelationship


inChile;theotheris theconditions
thatcould
sistenceofhighinequality
in
of
Chilean
labor
theforea
revitalization
organized
potentially
bring
seeablefuture.
in 1990,Chilehas been applaudedfor
Sinceitsredemocratization
in
advances
reduction
making
significant
poverty
(HaggardandKaufman
At
the
same
time,thenationhas
2008;Mesa-Lago2008b;Weyland1997).
inLatinAmerica,
exhibited
one ofthemostskewedincomedistributions
witha Ginicoefficient
around
0.55 (ECLAC2001,71, 2006,
averaging
stemsfromwage inequality
(Ffrench-Davis
90).15This situation
2002,
2009,22) and thefactthatrealwageshavegrownmuch
198;Larraaga
moreslowlythanhasnationalincome(BancoCentral
n.d.).Thesetrends
a function
ofthestructural
inwages,in turn,areprobably
at leastpartly
that
weaknessof unions,since researchelsewherehas demonstrated
unionshave an important
rolein pushingup and compressing
wages
2000).
(Freemanand Medoff1984;Ruedaand Pontusson
macroecoHighlevelsof incomeinequality
mayhave significant
Withregardto the economy,some
nomicand politicalimplications.
are associatedwithpoor
scholarsarguethathighlevelsof inequality
2002,266).Withregardto polgrowth
(Easterly
long-term
performance
are associated
itics,theliterature
suggeststhathighlevelsofinequality
withlower-quality
and moreunstabledemocracy
(Kauffman
2007;Weyland 1996,5). Although
Chiledoes notfacetheseproblemsrightnow,
in thepresentmaymakethecountry
failureto deal withthissituation
to themin thefuture.
vulnerable
Giventhe currentsituationof unionweaknessand its negative
wouldmakeitpossible
itis worthaskingwhatconditions
implications,
of the labor movementin Chile.Besides
to foreseea strengthening
all
in training
and workerprotection
initiatives,
engagingmanagement
of whichmay make unionsmore appealingto potentialmembers,
unionsmustmake inroadsintonew constituencies.
Althoughformal
than
in
the
has
become
more
past(Sehnbruch
precarious
employment
in
the
still
has
the
formal
sector
Chile
2OO6),
region(Mesa-Lago
largest
forrecruiting
an opportunity
butrequiresmore
2008a,3). Thispresents
in
workers
who
and
will,innovation, energy mobilizing
mayhave difconstituencies.
ferent
needsfromthoseoftraditional
will
thatsuchstrategies
ofthisstudysuggest,
The findings
however,
thattacklesthe
in the absenceof a laborreform
have limitedeffects
a stronger
union
incentives
forunionfragmentation.
Therefore,
multiple
in
the
framework
will
a
broad
movement
change
legal
probably require
Thiscannotbe achieved
inwhichworkers
withmanagement.
negotiate
whileunionscontinueto holdlittlepoliticalleverage.
underPresidentMichelle
The sharpincreasein union militancy
unions
Bachelet(2006-10)showsthateven underexisting
conditions,

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95

successin seizingpolitcan findcommonpoliticalgroundand relative


limited
to workers
these
efforts
have
been
ical opportunities.
However,
reforms
intosignificant
in thepublicsector,and havenotyettranslated
to the collectiveaspectsof the LaborCode. This indicatesthatmore
parpressureis needed,notonlyfromunionsbutalso fromincumbent
tiesto unions,especiallytheSocialistPartyand
tiesthathad historical
Democrats.
theChristian
theseparties
Forthelast 18 years,whileleadingthegovernment,
in regardto the
orthodoxmarketprinciples
have embracedrelatively
to rebuildthestrongbutautonomous
labormarket,
makingit difficult
betweencenter-left
relations
partiesand unionsthatexistedbeforethe
has been theresultofthenegotiated
1973military
coup. Thissituation
oflabormilthefearand distrust
ofthedemocratic
character
transition,
fromthe1973breakdownof SalvadorAllende'ssocialitancyresulting
in EasternEurope.
fallof"realsocialism"
and thesubsequent
istregime,
and strongpressurefromemployers
Divisionsin thelabormovement
seemselusive.
laborreform
havenothelped.In thiscontext,
come as a resultof electoral
Ironically,
changecould potentially
inthe
inpower.16
The successoftheright
alternation
thatpromote
shifts
electionwillprobablymeanthatin theshortterm,
2009-10presidential
this
on laborissueswillbe delayed.In thelongrun,however,
progress
to
forcenter-left
couldcreatemoreincentives
situation
develop
parties
a laboragendathatwouldallowthemto actively
competeforworkingbothunionand center-left
classvoteswhilefreeing
partyleadersto critmodel.Whilethe
and the current
icize the government
development
scenario
this
impliesmightworrysome
greaterpoliticalpolarization
traumatic
of thecountry's
who feara repetition
observers
past,it may
inherstructure
alterthelaborrelations
be theonlywayto substantively
itedfromthemilitary
regime.

Interviews
wereconductedin Santiago,Chilein 2004.Translations
All interviews
ofinterview
bytheauthor.
quotations
Bank
ofLaborRelations,
1.1 Corporate
August4
Manager,
Union11,May10
BoardofDirectors,
1.2 Member,
Union12,May5
BoardofDirectors,
1.3 Member,
Union13,May5
BoardofDirectors,
1.4 Member,
Union6, April26
Board
of
1.5 Member,
Directors,
Union12,May13
BoardofDirectors,
1.6 Member,
Union7, May3
BoardofDirectors,
1.7 Member,
Union8, May12
BoardofDirectors,
1.8 Member,

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96

LATINAMERICANPOLITICS AND SOCIETY

52: 2

1.9 Member,Board of Directors,Union 9, July19


1.10 Member,Board of Directors,Union 10,July14
1.11 Member,Board of Directors,Union 3, June 1
1.12 Member,Board of Directors,Union 4, July27
1.13 Member,Board of Directors,Union 5, August11
1.14 Member,Board of Directors,Union 1, April29
1.15 Member,Board of Directors,Union 1, June 1
1.16 Member,Board of Directors,Union 2, June4
1.17 Member,Board of Directors,Union 11, May 12
Telecommunications Firm
2.1 Member,Board of Directors,Union 9, August30
2.2 Member,Board of Directors,Union 6, September27
2.3 Member,Board of Directors,Union 12, August26
2.4 CorporateManagerof Labor Relations,September30
2.5 Member,Board of Directors,Union 10, September27
2.6 Member,Board of Directors,Union 7, September7
2.7 Member,Board of Directors,Union 13, August31
2.8 Member,Board of Directors,Union 11, August23
2.9 Member,Board of Directors,Union 1, August12
2.10 Member,Board of Directors,Union 2, August19
2.11 Member,Board of Directors,Union 4, August25
2.12 Member,Board of Directors,Union 8, July22
2.13 Member,Board of Directors,Union 5, September28
2.14 Member,Board of Directors,Union 3, August27

Notes
I wouldliketo thankEvelyneHuber,JuanPablo Luna,JanaMorgan,the
comments
fortheirinsightful
editorof LAPS,and fouranonymousreviewers
on different
versionsof thepaper.I also wouldliketo thankGabrielOndetti
butin theend alwaysconstructive,
and his relentless,
forhis encouragement
criticism.
in LatinAmerdataserieson uniondensity
cross-national
1. Unfortunately,
LabourOffice
The International
ica between1990and 2004 are problematic.
(ILO) database,forexample,has comparability
problemsdue to considerable
used to collectthedata,thecoverageof
inthemethods
variation
cross-national
thedefinitions
thefigures
on tradeunionmembership,
used,and theapproach
howstudiesindicate,
rates.Country-specific
tradeuniondensity
to calculating
whichsharewithChilea longever,thatunionsin Mexico,Peru,and Uruguay,
similarshrinkage
haveexperienced
(Cassoni2000,8; Fairris
tradition,
standing
and Torero2002,11-13).
and Levine2004;Saavedra-Chanduv
2. The other22 percentof unionizedworkersare organizedin unionsof
twotypesofunionsthathavea different
and temporary
workers,
independent
legalstatus.

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PALACIOS-VALLADARES: CHILE'S LABOR UNIONS

97

3. The connectionbetweenunion-party
politicalalliancesand union
in boththeLatinAmerican
and European
has been well documented
strength
andWay1998;Murillo2001;Westcontexts
(Burgess2004;Cook 2007;Levitsky
ern1995,187-88).
in moredevelopedcountries
findsimilar
links
4. Studiesofuniondensity
Visser
Visser
Lee
and
2005).
1999;
1992;
(Ebbinghaus
unionaccommodation
heremeansa strategy
offirm-level
5. Partnership
interactions
betweenunions
andhighly
characterized
bypermanent
cooperative
to union
refers
intendedto producemutualgains.Militancy
and management
oriented
toward
obtainlittle
characterized
accommodation,
mainly
by
strategies
inggainsforworkers.
have one or twounions(Direccindel Trabajo
6. Mostunionizedfirms
2007,79).
in 2004 roughly
7. Although
30 percentor all theworkerslaboringror
theunionsunderstudyhereorganized
weresubcontracted,
bothfirms
veryfew,
ifany,oftheseworkers.
8. UnderChileanlabor law, the employercannotrefuseto negotiate
This procedurealso requireshigherquorumsof
formalcollectivecontracts.
thantheconvenioand followsa rigidset of procedures.
unionrepresentation
ofunionsemploythistypeofinstrument
On average,20 percent
(Direccindel
Trabajon.d.,6).
1 as an opportunity
to grow(interview
9. Union2 soughtoutFederation
1.16).
"Inthelastbargaining
roundI was authorto a firm
10. According
officer,
ized to increasethecostofthecollective
by 2 percentto 4 percent.
agreement
an increaseofonly1.8 percent"
I succeededin negotiating
(interview
1.1).
to
mostworkersmaintained
11. In addition,
strongemotionalattachment
namedinreference
to thosebanks.
Unionswereinformally
theirbankoforigin.
classicworkson
is consistent
withthatfoundby earlier,
12. Thisattitude
in Chile(e.g.,Landsberger
laborrelations
1967).
strikesthey
13. Golden(1997) arguesthatunionleadersmayundertake
threaten
forallocating
knowwillfailwhentheyperceivethatthecriteria
layoffs
unionsurvival.
as one char14. Kauffman
(1974,285) definesa patron-client
relationship
betweenactorsof
informal
acterizedby a particularistic
exchangerelationship
by rendering
unequalpowerand statusin whicheach partyexpectsreturns
goodsand servicesto theother.
indicates
thatinequality
declinedbetween2000and
15. One recentanalysis
theaverevenwiththerecentfallininequality,
2006(Larraaga
2009).However,
forthepost1990periodis above0.55(Larraaga
2009,7).
age Ginicoefficient
reform
thatwould
16. It couldalso comeaboutas a resultof an electoral
binominal
topolitical
minorities
thanthecurrent
system.
givemorerepresentation

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