Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Labor Movements, RC44

  on-line programme

Programme Coordinator

Peter EVANS, University of California, United States,

RC44 Liaison in Argentina
Cecilia María Lusnich, Universidad de Buenos Aires,

Volunteer at the venue
Romina Bravo,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Building Transnational Solidarity among National Labor Movements


Challenging the logic of neoliberalism: Labor-feminist coalitions and work-family policy campaigns

Joint session of RC32 Women in Society and RC44 Labor Movements [host committee]
In an era when government regulation and state-sponsored safety nets are under attack worldwide, one of the few areas in which new initiatives have been successful is work-family policy. In Australia, universal paid family leave was established in 2011. Even in the U.S.– long an extreme laggard in this area – several state and local governments have established new programs guaranteeing paid family leave or paid sick days to workers. The U.S. and Australian programs have incorporated principles of gender equity from the start; indeed they came into existence in large part due to the efforts of advocates for women, in partnership with organized labor.

By contrast, in many of the countries that established such paid leave programs in earlier eras, gender equity was often absent; indeed in some cases only mothers were eligible for such leaves. Yet in the neoliberal era, even as other social programs have been cut back, many countries have reconfigured their parental leave programs with the aim of making them more gender-egalitarian.

This session will include papers from selected countries to explore the implications of these recent developments in a comparative perspective, with an emphasis on the role of labor movements as well as the impact on gender relations.


China's emerging working class and the future of the labor movement


Innovative approaches to informal work

Joint session of RC30 Sociology of Work and RC44 Labor Movements [host committee]
Since the 1980s, informal or precarious work has been steadily increasing in both rich and poor countries. Much has been written about this trend. Some decry it as an affront to labor security, welfare and justice. Others celebrate it as an opportunity for unshackled economic growth and entrepreneurship. Deep questions remain, however, on how workers, states, capital, and international agencies are addressing the changes arising from this trend.

How are unprotected workers fighting to retain their basic welfare? How are states responding to the shifting demands of unregulated, informal workers? Are employers benefitting from the rise of precarious employment? How are international agencies redefining labor surveys to include and standardize the increasingly diverse forms of informal work at the global level?

This panel invites papers that shed light on the multitude of approaches workers, states, and employers have taken to address the challenges of increasing informal work. Papers may highlight national or intra-national cases. Papers covering cases in the global North and/or in the global South are welcome.


Labor movements and the State: What happens when political allies take power?

Gaining the political strength that allows allied political parties to gain state power is a central goal of almost all labor movements. Yet, having allies in power may also limit the willingness of movement leaders’ to pursue workers interests that are inconvenient for the state. What is the tradeoff between access and autonomy? Do should unions be willing to give up autonomy in order to gain or maintain access to the levers of state power? When should they forego access in an effort to maintain their autonomy?

For a long time these questions have been moot in most of the Global South as Unions faced hostile states. But these issues have become more salient in recent years. Latin America provides the best illustrations of the change. The context of labor movement contestation in Latin America has been transformed in the new millennium by the rise of left political parties to power as well as the rise of new social movements, especially peasant and indigenous movements. Having weathered the onslaught of global neo-liberal capitalism in the 80’s and 90’s Latin American labor movements are now in a position to play a more central political role. However, having Left Parties supported by the labor movement in power, has also created new challenges for workers and their unions, raising once again old issues of populism, corporatism and the capacity of trade unions to defend the interests of workers even when policies that might be considered contrary to the interests of ordinary workers are introduced by their allies in government.

A critical reassessment of the relation between the labor movement and the state is clearly in order. This session invites papers that examine the current evolution of the relation between the state and the labor movement in Latin America as well as elsewhere in the Global South, as well as papers reflecting on what lessons the past evolution of labor and the state in the North might have for analyzing the strategic choices facing the labor movement in this new context.


Making transnational networks more effective vehicles for North-South and South-South labor solidarity

The global labor movement’s strategies for building transnational solidarity across the North-South divide have evolved impressively over the past 20 years. Both defeats and victories have resulted in new organizational vehicles and more sophisticated tactics for using global connections to advance worker’s rights and power. The development of s has stimulated the emergence of new transnational networks of activists that put pressure on powerholders within these chains to support workers and improve working conditions in developing countries.

Contemporary transnational strategies complement ties among unions with networks that build solidarity between workers organizations and other social groups. NGOs and social movement organizations help make these complementary connections.Innovation is particular important to workers whose economic position is precarious or informal. The special leverage possible in the market for university logo apparel has made it a leading site of innovation for strategies based on global supply chains. But other workers who do not have the privilege of being part of global supply chains are also developing innovative strategies. Even informal sector workers (e.g., garbage pickers, street vendors, and domestic workers) are building international networks, which given the spread of informal represent a potentially even more important arena of constructing new transnational strategies.

This session invites papers that examine the relation between transnational labor activism and national strategies of contestation and interrogate the lessons of the last 20 years: “What have organizers and labor scholars learned from recent transnational campaigns? How we might build on these experiences to generate more effective forms of North-South and South-South solidarity.


Migrant Workers, Labour Unions and Collective Protests


New roles for intellectuals in the labor movement?


Organizing the production of alternative visions to support social justice

Joint session of RC02 Economy and Society and RC44 Labor Movements [host committee]
Since the mid-1970s, but particularly since the 1990s, alternative think tanks, policy groups, popular institutes and other sites of counter-hegemonic knowledge production and mobilization have generated important ideas, both visionary and strategic, for a ‘globalization from below’ in which transnational social movements have often been leading protagonists. Groups such as the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam), Instituto Paulo Freire and Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (Sao Paulo), Focus on the Global South (Bangkok), Centre for Civil Society (Durban) and Asia Monitor Resource Centre (Hong Kong) have served as ‘collective intellectuals’, critiquing corporate agendas and promoting democratic alternatives to neoliberal globalization in contestations that often transect national borders. This panel session welcomes papers and presentations that explore the challenges and possibilities in organizing the production of alternative visions, strategies, critiques and modes of analysis to support social and eco-justice. How is counter-hegemonic knowledge produced, mobilized and articulated with on-the ground activism? What alternative projects and methodologies are emerging for strengthening anti-systemic forces? How does counter-hegemonic knowledge production contribute to a new left anti-capitalist politics and to the formation of new subjectivities from below? Papers that take up issues relating to labour movements and/or economy and society are particularly welcome, as are presentations from activist intellectuals directly engaged in the production of alternative visions and strategies


RC44 Business Meeting


RC44 Labor Movements Round Table Session: Emerging alternatives for the labor movement: New visions, new contexts, new strategies

The attack on public sector unionism and labor's response


Trade unions in the green economy

Joint session of RC24 Environment and Society and RC44 Labor Movements [host committee]
We propose a session to discuss the different ways in which trade unions across the world are responding to the challenges of climate change. The effects of climate change are being felt globally, but as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has written “The main victims of climate change will be the workers, in particular in developing countries, whose sole responsibility will be to have been born poor in the most fragile parts of the planet.” Being in Latin America gives us the opportunity to invite scholars and trade unionists from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil, where trade unions have been building alliances with environmental movements, trying to find a common agenda to combat climate change and create jobs. The Rio 20+ Earth Summit in Rio will have taken place at the beginning of June 2012. This session would also be an opportunity to discuss what the conclusions of the Earth Summit mean for the trade union movement. Climate Change is one of the major global justice issues in which trade unions are engaged, demanding a “Just Transition” to a “Green Economy”. So far there is very little scholarly and public discussion about their practices, and perspectives.


Unfree labour: States, capital and the struggles of migrant and immigrant workers for social and economic justice

As the inequalities of global capitalism continue to produce and shape migration patterns, migrant and immigrant workers face multiple forms of economic, political and social exclusion in labour-receiving states, often filling jobs that are characterized by low wages, low status and employment insecurity. In this context, migrant and immigrant workers, labour organizations, and their allies have engaged in wide ranging struggles in pursuit of social and economic justice.

This panel will: a) examine the institutional mechanisms through which capital, and labour-sending and labour-receiving states attempt to regulate and discipline migrant and immigrant workers; b) map the resistance of im/migrant workers and strategies for organizing; and c) connect im/migrant workers’ struggles to broader local and transnational struggles for social justice and transformative change.

With a focus on both market capitalist and state-socialist countries, the panel will examine both the regulation and disciplining of migrant and immigrant workers, as well as im/migrant labour struggles in historical and contemporary contexts. It will highlight the roles of diaspora networks, the social relations of unfree labour, and the challenges to develop labour organizing models and strategies through which migrant and immigrant workers build both counter-power and critical analysis. Examples of potential paper topics include: migrant transnationalism; unfree labour, law and imperialism; temporary migrant workers’ struggles in state-socialist economies; the limits and potential of the law as a vehicle for im/migrant justice; and labour organizing through im/migrant workers centers.


Worker's taking over factories as a response to capital taking away jobs: Reflections on experiences in Argentina and elsewhere




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November 2012