Transitions to market models have had an important impact on the structure of the labor market and on structures of interest representation of the working classes in Latin America. Most notably they have caused pressures for a more flexibilized labor market and a shift within the working classes from the formal sector toward the informal sector. These changes have been accompanied by a severe challenge to the importance of labor unions as the privileged organizations through which the working classes have traditionally acted to defend their interests.
As imperfect and problematic as Latin America’s “state corporatist” unions were as structures of representation, they nevertheless addressed, at the work place and more broadly in the political arena, productionist interests, such as wages, employment levels, and work conditions. The large informal sector that has come to comprise about half of the Latin American labor market works under conditions that are very different from the classical proletarian workforce that gave rise to unions. Under the new economic models widely adopted throughout Latin America, productionist issues have remained very important, or perhaps even increased in salience. Yet, the capacity of workers to address these issues has declined. These are the issues we explore in this study.