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Copper Workers, Organized Labor, and Popular Protest under Military Rule in Chile, 1973–1986

  • Thomas Miller Klubock (a1)

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In April of 1983, the Chilean copper miners'confederation (the Confederación de Trabajadores de Cobre, or CTC), representing 26,000 copper workers, called for a general strike in Chile's copper mines and for a day of national protest against the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.

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NOTES

I would like to thank Barbara Weinstein and Joel Stillerman for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this article. Except when otherwise indicated, all interviews cited below were conducted by the author. As guaranteed to these interviewees, their testimony is anonymous.

1. Confederacién de Trabajadores del Cobre, Memoria, Congreso Ordinario, Punta de Tralca, 1983 (copy in author's possession).

2. Cathy Schneider, for example, has offered an important critique of the “new social movement” perspective, arguing that in urban squatter settlements protests were generated out of the underground survival of neighborhood networks of leftist activists. However, Schneider also takes the subject of the popular protests of the 1980s to be the urban poor, rather than workers or miners. See Schneider, Cathy, Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile (Philadalphia, 1995).

3. See Stillerman, Joel, “‘Dando la Pelea Hasta el Final’: Metal Workers' Resistance in Authoritarian Chile, 1976–1983,” paper presented at the Thirteenth Annual Latin American Labor History Conference, Duke University, 1996. Other important works on the union movement under the military regime include: Campero, Guillermo and Valenzuela, José A., El Movimiento Sindicat en el Regimen Militar Chileno, 1973–1981 (Santiago, 1984);Barrera, Manuel, Henriquez, Helia, and Selamé, Teresita, Sindicatos y Estado en el Chile Actual (Santiago, 1985);Jaime, Ruiz-Tagle P., El Sindicalismo Chileno después dle Plan Laboral (Santiago, 1985);Barrera, Manuel and Falabella, Gonzalo, Sindicatos bajo Régimenes Militares: Argentina, Brasil, Chile (Santiago, 1990);Barrera, Manuel and Valenzuela, J. Samuel, “The Development of Labor Movement Opposition to the Military Regime,” in Dictatorship and Oppositions: Military Rule in Chile, ed. Valenzuela, J. Samuel and Valenzuela, Arturo (Baltimore, 1986);Angell, Alan, “Unions and Workers in Chile during the 1980s,” in The Struggle for Democracy in Chile, 1982–1990, ed. Drake, Paul W. and Jaksic, Iván (Lincoln, 1991).

4. For a history of copper miners before 1973 see Klubock, Thomas Miller, Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile's El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1948 (Durham, 1998).

5. See Bitar, Sergio and Pizarro, Crisostomo, La Caída de Allende y Ia Huelga de El Teniente (Santiago, 1986). The Chilean labor code divided blue-collar workers (obreros), who engaged in mostly manual labor, from white-collar workers (empleados), who worked in offices and performed work of a more technical nature. Empleados and obreros unions often negotiated separate contracts and had access to different benefits and wage structures. In El Teniente, the PDC controlled most of the mine's small empleado unions during the late 1960s and during Allende's government, while the PS and PC continued to dominate the obrero unions. The 1973 strike was largely the result of the activities of PDC activists and the empleado unions that opposed the UP. During the strike, the obrero unions mostly continued to work and to express their support for the UP.

6. The nationalist Díaz was replaced in 1976 by Sergio Fernández, who then became minister of the interior in 1978 and one of the most outspoken and radical ideologues of the Pinochet regime, particularly as a champion of neoliberal economic policies.

7. Interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones El Teniente, Rancagua, July 1991.

8. Interview with former El Teniente union leader and labor activist, Rancagua, March 2, 1992.

9. Informe del Cobre, December 1983.

10. Interview, former El Teniente union leader and labor activist, Rancagua, March 2, 1992.

11. Interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones El Teniente, Rancagua, July 1991.

12. For a discussion of private contractors in the copper industry see Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre, Congreso Ordinario, Memona, July 26–28, 1982. Also see Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre, Congreso Ordinario, Memoria, March, 6–8 1987 (in author's possession); and Voz del Minero, December 1985.

13. Interview, former union leader, Sindicato Industrial Sewell y Mina, Rancagua, November 25, 1992.

14. Informe del Cobre, June 1983.

15. Voz del Minero, October 1985; see also Voz del Minero, June 1984, June 1988.

16. Informe del Cobre, June 1983.

17. La Voz del Minero, October 1985; interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones, Rancagua, July 1991.

18. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Rancagua, Rancagua, March 18, 1991.

19. For an analysis of the Labor Plan see análisis, July 1979.

20. Ruiz-Tagle, El Sindicalismo Chileno.

21. Ibid.

22. Interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones, Rancagua, July 1991.

23. Ibid.

24. Interview, Rancagua, June 12, 1992 (with assistance from Paola Fernández).

25. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Sewell y Mina, Rancagua, November 25, 1991.

26. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Rancagua, Rancagua, March 18, 1991.

27. “Memoria,” Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre, Congreso Ordinario, Santiago, January 1984 (copy in author's possession).

28. Interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones, Rancagua, July 1991.

29. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Coya y Pangal, Rancagua, March 26, 1991.

30. Interview, former El Teniente union leader and labor activist, Rancagua, March 2, 1992. The “cage” is the massive elevator that transports miners to tunnels inside the mine.

31. For accounts of the strike see El Rancagüino, November 4–12 and November 24, 1977. Also see El Mercurio, November 4–8, 1977.

32. For histories of these organizations see Barrera and Valenzuela, “The Development of Labor Movement Opposition”; Angell, “Unions and Workers in Chile during the 1980s”; and Campero and Valenzuela, El Movimiento Sindical en el Régimen Militar Chileno, 19731981.

33. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Rancagua, Rancagua, March 18, 1991.

34. Ibid.

35. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Coya y Pangal, Rancagua, March 26, 1991.

36. Interview, former El Teniente union leader and labor activist, Rancagua, March 2, 1992.

37. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Coya y Pangal, Rancagua, 1991.

38. Interview, workers of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones, Rancagua, July 1991.

39. Interview, former El Teniente union leader and labor activist, Rancagua, March 2, 1992.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Vicaría de Pastoral Obrera, Arzobispado de Santiago, Informe de Trabajo No. 7, 1981, “Balance de Dos Anos de Negociación Colectiva.” Also see Páginas Sindicales for these years. In addition, see Ruiz-Tagle, El Sindicalismo Chileno después del Plan Laboral and Barrera, Henriquez, and Selamé, Sindicatos y Estado en el Chile actual.

43. Vicaría de Pastoral Obrera, “Balance de Dos Anos.”

44. Páginas Sindicales, January 1981.

45. Informe del Cobre, January 1983.

46. Informe del Cobre, June 1983.

47. Ibid.

48. Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre, Congreso Extraordinario, Antofogasta, 1982; Congreso Ordmario, Punta de Tralca, July 26–28, 1982; Congreso Ordinario, Santiago, January 9, 1984 (copy in author's possession).

49. Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre, Congreso Ordinario, Punta de Tralca, 1983 (copy in author's possession).

50. La Voz del Minero, November 1983, April 1984, June 1984, October 1984.

51. Informe del Cobre, December 1983.

52. Interview, member of the Sindicato Industrial Caletones El Teniente, Rancagua, July 1991.

53. Informe del Cobre, December 1983.

54. Interview, union leader, Sindicato Industrial Rancagua, Rancagua, March 18, 1991.

55. For descriptions of the protests see La Voz del Minero, 19831985.

56. Informe del Cobre, December 1983.

57. Interview, Rancagua, April 4, 1992 (with the assistance of Paola Fernandez).

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid.

60. For an important theoretical discussion of the role of urban social movements in Latin America based on struggles over the consumption of basic services rather than issues of production in poor neighborhoods, see Castells, Manuel, The City and the Grass-Roots (Berkeley, 1983). For a discussion of new social movements and Marxist theory see Laclau, Ernesto and Mouffe, Chantal, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London, 1985) and Escobar, Arturo and Alvarez, Sonia, eds., The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy (Boulder, 1992). For the case of Chile, see Salazar, Gabriel, Violencia Polltica Popular en “Las Grandes Alamedas”: Santiago de Chile, 1947–1987 (Santiago, 1990) and Valdes, Teresa and Weinstein, Maria, “Las Pobladoras y el estado,” Proposiciones 21: Género, Mujer y Sociedad (Santiago, 1992).

61. Schneider, , Shantytown Protest.

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Copper Workers, Organized Labor, and Popular Protest under Military Rule in Chile, 1973–1986

  • Thomas Miller Klubock (a1)

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