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Trade Union Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa  

Nick Bernards

Although unionized workers have rarely represented more than a small minority of the population anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, trade unions have played, and continue to play, a significant political role. Trade unions still occupy strategic choke points in many African economies, particularly around transport infrastructure, and retain a spatially concentrated organizational base as well as a degree of symbolic power drawn from participation in struggles against colonialism, apartheid, and authoritarianism. Three persistent dilemmas have strongly shaped the role of African trade unions and driven much of the academic debate about them. First are debates about the relationships between trade unions and political parties. These date to the often-fraught relationships between unions and anti-colonial movements in the last years of colonial rule. Pitched struggles, both within trade unions and between unions and governing parties, were often fought in the decade after the end of formal colonization over the degree of autonomy that unions should have from governing parties. These were often resolved through the widespread repression of politically independent unionism in the 1970s. This relationship, however, became untenable under processes of structural adjustment, and unions have often played a significant role in protests against neoliberal reforms, which have spurred widespread political transformation. Second are debates about the relationships of trade unions to non-unionized workers, especially the unemployed or the “informal” sector. Critics on both left and right have long pointed to the relatively privileged position of trade unions. This has consistently been invoked by governments seeking to justify the limited political role of trade unions as well as policies for wage restraint, state retrenchment, or currency devaluation that have negatively affected organized labor. However, given the increasingly widespread nature of informality and unemployment in contemporary Africa, trade unions have begun to make tentative steps toward organizing informal and unemployed workers in some cases. Finally, the relationships of African unions to the international labor movement and to international organizations have often been important. African unions have frequently drawn on links to international trade unions, regional institutions, or the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a way of compensating for domestic weaknesses. These strategies, however, have often engendered significant conflicts around the differing objectives of African and metropolitan actors, between African unions over access to international resources, and concerning “imperialism” by American and European unions.

Article

Immigration Policy and European Union Politics  

Natascha Zaun and Christof Roos

EU immigration policies have incrementally evolved from a purely intergovernmental to a deeply integrated EU policy area. In practice, EU immigration policies and EU secondary legislation still leave significant discretion to the Member States, as witnessed by key developments in the various subfields of immigration policies—including policies on border protection, return and irregular migration, as well as labor migration and family migration policies. The key academic debates on EU immigration policies have mainly focused on explaining the decision-making processes behind the adoption of EU policies as well as their impact on national policies. While scholars find that these EU policies have led to liberalizations in the areas of family migration or labor migration, the irregular migration and border policies of the EU have gradually produced more restrictive outcomes. Policy liberalizations are usually based on the impact of EU institutions, which tend to have more liberal positions than Member States. Lowest common denominator output at the EU level, such as on the Blue Card Directive, is usually due to a resistance of individual Member States. With deeper integration of the policy area over time and qualified majority voting, however, resistant minorities have been increasingly outvoted. The stronger politicization of some areas of immigration, such as family migration, has also led the European Commission to curb its legislative proposals, as it would be much harder to adopt a piece of legislation today (2019) that provides adequate protection standards.

Article

Latin American Labor Regulation in the 21st Century  

Matthew E. Carnes

The labor market of the 21st century is evolving at a rapid pace, making traditional manufacturing and agricultural jobs increasingly precarious and generating significant pressure for turnover, retraining, and adaptation by workers. Latin America’s labor regulation, adopted in the middle of the 20th century to foster industrial development and incorporate urban workers, has been slow to adapt to these conditions. Its restrictive and costly hiring and firing rules offer stronger protections than in many other parts of the world, but they often apply to a diminishing minority of laborers. Despite a few exceptions, once-strong unions have been hollowed out in the region, and workers have become increasingly atomized in their job seeking. The region’s educational systems are plagued by underinvestment, and they struggle to provide the needed technical skills that could galvanize investment that would provide higher-wage employment. Large segments of the workforce—a majority in most countries—find themselves in the informal sector, in jobs that are not registered with the state and that do not make contributions to pensions and social security systems. Why has Latin America—a region endowed with a variety of natural resources and a resilient entrepreneurial spirit—exhibited these patterns in its labor market regulation? The answer lies in an overlapping nexus of economic and political influences in the region. In this complex mix, one strand of scholarship has documented the lasting and recurrent alliance between organized labor and political parties on the left. Another strand has highlighted the concentrated power of business interests—both local and transnational—that have had the power to shape policies. And a third body of research concentrates on the electoral dynamics that have given rise to a growing set of politically motivated policies that seek to support informal sector workers, but may incentivize their remaining in that status. Finally, considerable attention has been given to the under-resourced state agencies that are not adequately monitoring labor regulations, allowing for widespread evasion of required payroll taxes. A change-resistant cycle has predominated in the region, in which protected insiders in the unionized sectors seek to preserve a set of protections that apply to a shrinking few, while politicians court support among outsiders with direct benefits that address immediate needs but have not yet achieved long-term or intergenerational change. Business interests have largely benefited from the status quo of labor law evasion and social security avoidance, so they have been slow to invest in upgrading the workforce or changing technology that would inspire additional investment in education. Addressing this situation will require efforts at both the political and economic levels, perhaps loosening the partisan ties that lock in preferential policies, as well as increasing the skill levels that would attract higher-tech industries and higher-paying jobs.

Article

Parties and Non-State Actors in Latin America  

Santiago Anria and Christopher Chambers-Ju

Since the dual transition to democracy and the market in Latin America, associational linkages or the exchanges between parties and interest associations representing different groups in society gained prominence for their crucial role in structuring political representation and framing policy processes. In the early 21st century, how do the relationships between political parties and interest associations vary across and within countries? The literature on party–voter linkages has begun to examine the distinct relations that emerge when political parties interact with interest associations that represent societal groups in order to incorporate those groups into party organizations or coalitions. Although associational linkages can be constructed when party leaders reach out to interest associations, they can also be constructed when interest associations negotiate the terms of their political support. One approach to analyzing associational linkages involves focusing on the diverse relationships that emerging societal actors established with political parties. Social movements have constructed movement-based parties. These parties are a particularly puzzling phenomenon because they incorporate social movements into their organizations without necessarily demobilizing them. Emerging sectors of organized labor have also established an array of relationships to parties, with unions engaging in contentious or electoral mobilization, with different degrees of support for political parties. There are major opportunities to advance a broad agenda for research on associational linkages that highlights cross-regional contrasts and changes in the political economy.

Article

Domestic and International Constituencies in Military Coups  

Ömer Aslan

Available scholarship on civil–military relations literature treats the occurrence of military coups d’état either as a purely domestic affair or a simple outcome of international dynamics. That is, a large body of literature assumes that a military coup d’état takes place on either a domestic or international level. When taken as an exclusively domestic affair, reasons for military coups d’état run the gamut from domestic instability and political corruption, state weakness, economic collapse, and the institutional culture of a military and its desire to protect its corporate interests, to political culture and popular support. Yet, a parallel body of work either reduces coup plotters to the status of proxies of powerful global state actors or assumes that wars, crises, external threats, foreign military training, or peacekeeping missions shape the military decision to seize power. Both perspectives deservedly take the military as the focal point of coups, yet presume either that that military is easily able to dictate a particular course of action to all the remaining domestic actors or is unidirectionally influenced by international actors. A coup d’état, however, must take into account different constituencies within and outside the military for it to take place. At the domestic level various actors, from opposition politicians, media corporations, and labor unions to business associations and “military opinion” itself, need to be taken into account. At the international level, coup plotters may either directly engage in negotiations, bargaining, and dialogue with or try to interpret signals delivered by external state actors. Coup plotters may use military-to-military relations developed by military officer exchanges and joint work in common security and defense organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Given that they are rational actors, coup-makers know well enough to look for ‘propitious circumstances’ at home and abroad (regional and international) as well as predict resonance between the domestic and international environment. Although military elites are better positioned to use their international network to engage in dialogue and bargaining at the international level, mid-ranking officers also take into consideration the outside dimension. When several domestic pressure groups such as business organizations or ordinary people deem a coup not in their interest or not to be a preferred action at a particular point in time, and show their displeasure by sustained street action, a permissive international environment may not suffice to produce a coup. It is in the context of this brittle coup coalition and in this intimate and fragile appeal to domestic and international audiences that a coup attempt takes place.