Solidarity or Colonialism? The Polemic of ‘Labor Colonialism’ in Puerto Rico
WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10.3, p. 287, 2007
14 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2017
Date Written: January 19, 2011
Leaders of American-based labor organizations in Puerto Rico aggressively supported a collective bargaining rights bill for public sector workers in 1998 because, so they argued, the new law would help organize the public sector. However, almost ten years after the approval of that bill, it has become patently clear that the law did not lead to new organizing in Puerto Rico. Rather, the law changed the institutional makeup of labor relations in Puerto Rico by providing American-based labor organizations an opportunity to raid existing Puerto Rican labor organizations and become the exclusive representatives of public sector workers. Therefore, since the law was approved, a war between some American-based unions and some Puerto Rico-based labor organizations has ensued, one where the Puerto Rican unions accuse U.S. unions of being “labor colonialists,” while American-based labor unions deny the accusations and label their critics as ultra leftists, splintering the labor movement and making it an ineffective defender of working class interests. Hence, the new law, far from delivering the hundreds of thousands of new union members that union leaders promised, has created a political nightmare for labor organizations in Puerto Rico. U.S. labor unions are at fault for contributing to the current divisions in the Puerto Rican labor movement, but all unions, including independent Puerto Rican unions, must find a way out of the deadlock to concentrate on their most important goal – represent their members and become effective leaders for the Puerto Rican working class.
Keywords: Labor Colonialism, Puerto Rico, Collective Bargaining Rights, Public Sector
JEL Classification: K10, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation