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Several Souths : The Dynamics of the International Labour Movement in the Americas

Thèse de doctorat, Carleton University, 2011

Collombat, Thomas. 2011. Several Souths : The Dynamics of the International Labour Movement in the Americas. Thèse de doctorat, Ottawa, Carleton University, 288 p.


This thesis is about labour internationalism in the Americas. It examines the impact of the end of the Cold War and of the spread of neoliberal globalization on North-South relations within International Labour Movement Organizations (ILMOs) in the Americas. It is argued that the U.S. hegemony on the hemisphere observed during the Cold War is in decline and that we see increased diversity within labour internationalism in Latin America. Although some Southern unions have withdrawn from ILMOs, others have gained more influence within them, confirming that several Souths now co-exist within ILMOs. It is also argued that the Northern influence has diversified, with a gradual decline in U.S. domination over Latin America and greater influence from European trade unions.

This thesis is based on Critical International Political Economy, an eclectic, holistic and dialectical approach that permits an evaluation of the complex and contradictory nature of ILMOs. This research contributes to putting labour back onto the International Political Economy agenda and to illuminate the processes at work within important although understudied organizations.

Specifically, this thesis looks at the dynamics at work in two countries, Brazil and Mexico, within the Interamerican Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT), the Union Network International (UNI) and the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF). The thesis evaluates these organizations’ evolution since the end of the Cold War, focusing on the process leading to the founding of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), campaigns against free trade agreements and strategies used to confront Multinational Corporations. It relies on the perceptions of union representatives from Mexico and Brazil and suggests that while Mexican unions are now marginalized in these three ILMOs, Brazilian unions have gained much more influence. Domestic, regional and international factors are put forward to explain those differences. The legacy of corporatism and the lack of integration between unions in North America explain why Mexicans have lost their place within ILMOs. In contrast, the greater autonomy of the Brazilian labour movement and its long-standing relations with other unions in the Southern Cone contributes to its influence within ILMOs.

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