Business, workers, and the class politics of labor reforms in Chile, 1973-2016

Con embargo hasta 15 junio, 2019

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This dissertation analyzes labor policy in Chile, and aims to explain why the labor laws enacted during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) and systematized in the 1979 Labor Plan have not been repealed. Conceived as a pro-business plan, the Labor Plan regulations decentralized bargaining to the firm level, undermined significantly the right to strike, and weakened unions through several clauses promoting, among other things, the coexistence of multiple unions in the firm. Despite these regulations have been defined as one of the main factors explaining the weakness of organized labor throughout the democratic period (1990-present), none of the labor reforms carried out since the return to democracy has repealed them. In this dissertation I explain why this is so. Based on archival, historical, and qualitative evidence, in the first part of this dissertation I analyze all the labor reforms carried out between 1990 and 2016 and the role organized business and labor played in them. I show that the persistence of the 1979 Labor Plan is explained largely by the power imbalances between employers and workers and, particularly, by employers' stronger capacity influence the policy-making process. This imbalance explains why the last reform process (2015-2016) did not succeed in dismantling the Labor Plan regulations even though most of the politico-institutional constraints derived from the dictatorship and observed in the past reform processes of 1990-1993 and 2000-2001 (e.g. unelected Senators that strengthened the veto power of right parties) did not exist anymore. In the second part of this dissertation I switch the focus from labor law to worker collective action, and examine the processes that led to the revival and consolidation of the business encompassing association Confederación de la Producción y del Comercio (CPC) and to the formation and weakening of the labor confederation Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT). In addition to showing how these processes explain employers' stronger power to influence the policy-making process, the evidence I present allows me to nuance some explanations for policy continuity in Chile, which in emphasizing the effects of institutional and political constraints tend to assign a secondary role to explanations centered on the interactions between organized business, labor, and the state.

Como citar: Pérez, P. (2017). Business, workers, and the class politics of labor reforms in Chile, 1973-2016 (Tesis doctoral). Universidad de California, San Diego.