Strategic Unionism : the political role of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in South Africa and what it means for black workers
Political role of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in South Africa and what it means for black workers
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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This dissertation looks at the political role of trade unions in developing countries. Trade unions and particularly their engagement in political unionism have been absent from the development literature in recent decades. However, recently there has been a renewed interest in the role of trade unions and particularly in their political role as trade union movements in Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil have effectuated regime change by assisting labour based political parties to rise to power. I contribute to this trend by studying the role of the Congress of South African Trade unions (COSATU) and their role in shaping South Africa's transition to democracy. I use the story of COSATU to build on a theory of political unionism that is encompasses the various economic, social and political roles of trade unions and their strategic capability in capturing gains for workers.I examine COSATUs political role by creating five analytical categories to study the federations' experience; a historical review of the Black trade union movement that led to the creation of COSATU, forming alliances with political parties and civil society, building institutions for tripartism and consultation with business and government, mass mobilisation and membership and finally, shaping economic policy. I find that most of COSATUs achievements resulted from the federation's ability to engage in and find the right balance between economic and political unionism and to engage in strategic unionism in either sphere. The federation's unique participatory and democratic shop steward system also facilitated worker militancy and cohesiveness.(cont.) The federation's unique participatory and democratic shop steward system also facilitated worker militancy and cohesiveness. The federation has failed and faces challenges to both membership and organisation because it has inadequately confronted the material conditions of capitalism which have resulted in structural issues such as the informalisation and casualisation of the work force. Political engagement has had costs for COSATU, the most significant of which have been the class mobility of unionists into government and the opportunism that comes with the possibility for class mobility. The union is also drawn into the internal politics of the ANC government and likewise has seen its own internal leadership battles affected by this relationship. The federation has also failed in being adequately strategic and independent in its relationship with the ANC and risks getting consumed and distracted from its strategic and tactical goals through cooptation by the ANC.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2008.Includes bibliographical references (v. 2, leaves 293-303).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.