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The General Confederation of Labor of the Argentine Republic (in Spanish: Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina, CGT) is a national trade union federation in Argentina founded on September 27, 1930, as the result of the merger of the USA (Unión Sindical Argentina) and the COA (Confederación Obrera Argentina) trade unions. Nearly one out of five employed – and two out of three unionized workers in Argentina – belong to the CGT, one of the largest labor federations in the world.[1]

It was founded in 1930 by socialists, communists and independents to generate a plural union central. It had a socialist majority until 1945 and a Peronist one since then.

CGT headquarters in 1953

After the coup d'état of 1943, its leaders embraced the pro-working class policies of the Labour Minister, Col. Juan Perón. The CGT was again unified, due to the incorporation of many unionists who were members of the CGT n°2, dissolved in 1943 by the military government.

When Perón was separated from the government and confined on Martín García Island, the CGT called for a major popular demonstration at the Plaza de Mayo, on October 17, 1945, succeeding in releasing Perón from prison and in the call for elections. Founding on the same day the Labour Party (Partido Laborista), the CGT was one of the main support of Perón during the February 1946 elections. The Labor Party me

During the Infamous Decade of the 1930s and subsequent industrial development, the CGT began to form itself as a strong union, competing with the historically anarchist FORA V (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation, Fifth Congress). Centered initially around the railroad industry, the CGT was headed in the 1930s by Luis Cerruti and José Domenech (Unión Ferroviaria); Ángel Borlenghi (Confederación General de Empleados de Comercio); and Francisco Pérez Leirós (Unión de Obreros Municipales). The CGT became the Argentine affiliate of the International Federation of Trade Unions (an organization that both USA and COA had been members of for shorter periods).[3]

The CGT split in 1935 over a conflict between Socialists and Revolutionary Syndicalists, leading to the creation of the CGT-Independencia (Socialists & Communists) and the CGT-Catamarca (Revolutionary Syndicalists). The latter reestablished the Unión Sindical Argentina (USA) in 1937. The CGT again split in 1942, creating the CGT n°1, headed by the Socialist railroader José Domenech and opposed to Communism; and the CGT n°2, also headed by a Socialist (Pérez Leirós), which gathered Communist unions (construction, meat, print) and some important Socialist unions (such as the retail workers' union led by Borlenghi and the municipal workers' union led by Pérez Leirós).[4]

After the coup d'état of 1943, its leaders embraced the pro-working class policies of the Labour Minister, Col. Juan Perón. The CGT was again unified, due to the incorporation of many unionists who were members of the CGT n°2, dissolved in 1943 by the military government.

When Perón was separated from the government and confined on Martín García Island, the CGT called for a major popular demonstration at the Plaza de Mayo, on October 17, 1945, succeeding in releasing Perón from prison and in the call for elections. Founding on the same day the Labour Party (Partido Laborista), the CGT was one of the main support of Perón during the February 1946 elections. The Labor Party merged into the Peronist Party in 1947, and the CGT became one of the strongest arms of the Peronist Movement, as well as the only trade union recognized by Perón's government. Two CGT delegates, the Socialist Martín García Island, the CGT called for a major popular demonstration at the Plaza de Mayo, on October 17, 1945, succeeding in releasing Perón from prison and in the call for elections. Founding on the same day the Labour Party (Partido Laborista), the CGT was one of the main support of Perón during the February 1946 elections. The Labor Party merged into the Peronist Party in 1947, and the CGT became one of the strongest arms of the Peronist Movement, as well as the only trade union recognized by Perón's government. Two CGT delegates, the Socialist Ángel Borlenghi and Juan Atilio Bramuglia were nominated Minister of Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs, respectively. Colonel Domingo Mercante, who was perhaps the military officer with the closest ties to labor, was elected Governor of Buenos Aires (a key constituency).[4]

The number of unionized workers grew markedly during the Perón years, from 520,000 (of which half belonged to the CGT) to over 2.5 million (all belonging to the CGT's 2,500 affiliated unions).[5] His administration also enacted or significantly extended numerous landmark social reforms supported by the CGT, including: minimum wages; labor courts; collective bargaining rights; improvements in housing, health and education; social insurance; pensions; economic policies which encouraged import substitution industrialization; growth in real wages of up to 50%; and an increased share of employees in national income from 45% to a record 58%.[5][6]

After the Revolución Libertadora military coup in 1955, which ousted Perón and outlawed Peronism, the CGT was banned from politics and its leadership replaced with government appointees. In response, the CGT began a destabilization campaign to end Perón's proscription and to obtain his return from exile. Amid ongoing strikes over both declining real wages and political repression, AOT textile workers' leader Andrés Framini and President Arturo Frondizi negotiated an end to six years of forced government receivership over the CGT in 1961. This concession, as well as the lifting of the Peronists' electoral ban in 1962, led to Frondizi's overthrow, however. During the 1960s, the leaders of the CGT attempted to create a "Peronism without Perón" – that is, a form of Peronism that retained the populist ideals set forth by Juan Perón, but rejected the personality cult that had developed around him in the 1940s and 1950s. The chief exponents of this strategy were the Unión Popular, founded by former Foreign Minister Juan Atilio Bramuglia (who, as chief counsel for the Unión Ferroviaria rail workers' union, had a key role in forming the alliance between labor and Perón), and UOM steelworkers' leader Augusto Vandor, who endorsed the CGT's active participation in elections against Perón's wishes and became the key figure in this latter movement. Vandor and Perón both supported President Arturo Illia's overthrow in 1966, but failed to reach an agreement with dictator Juan Carlos Onganía afterward.[4]

While membership in CGT unions remained well below their peak before Perón's 1955 overthrow, they enjoyed unprecedented resources during the 1960s. The CGT diversified their assets (largely restituted by Frondizi) through investment banking via the Banco Sindical, captive insurance, and investments such as real estate; indeed, by 1965, union dues accounted for only a third of CGT unions' income as a whole. Besides strike funds and employee health insurance organizations (obras sociales), unions plowed these profits into member services such as clinics, retirement homes, kindergartens, libraries, technical schools, subsidized retail chains, and hotels in seaside Mar del Plata and elsewhere. A thriving balance sheet also increasingly engendered corruption among union leaders, however. Many solicited bribes from employers using the threat of strike action and one

While membership in CGT unions remained well below their peak before Perón's 1955 overthrow, they enjoyed unprecedented resources during the 1960s. The CGT diversified their assets (largely restituted by Frondizi) through investment banking via the Banco Sindical, captive insurance, and investments such as real estate; indeed, by 1965, union dues accounted for only a third of CGT unions' income as a whole. Besides strike funds and employee health insurance organizations (obras sociales), unions plowed these profits into member services such as clinics, retirement homes, kindergartens, libraries, technical schools, subsidized retail chains, and hotels in seaside Mar del Plata and elsewhere. A thriving balance sheet also increasingly engendered corruption among union leaders, however. Many solicited bribes from employers using the threat of strike action and one – Commercial Union leader Armando March – was convicted in 1969 of embezzling up to US$30 million from his union's accounts over the course of the decade.[7]

The election of Print Union leader Raimundo Ongaro as Secretary General in 1968 led to a new schism at the CGT. This was owed as much to the rivalry between Ongaro and other labor leaders, as to the "divide and conquer" strategy pursued by Labor Minister Rubens San Sebastián (who made the schism inevitable by refusing to certify Ongaro's election). The CGT would now be divided into the CGT-Azopardo, which gathered proponents of collaboration with the military junta (also named "participationists", including the general secretary of the CGT Augusto Vandor, as well as José Alonso and the future general secretary of the CGT-Azopardo José Ignacio Rucci); and the CGTA (CGT de los Argentinos), a more radical union headed by Ongaro. The CGTA, which also included the Córdoba Light and Power Workers' leader Agustín Tosco, played a key role in the Cordobazo student-labor uprising of 1969, during which it called for a general strike. The military junta then jailed most of the CGTA leadership, who were close to left-wing causes such as the Movement of Priests for the Third World, Liberation Theology, and the Grupo Cine Liberación film movement.[4]

Following the failure of a 120-day strike at the Fabril Financiera industrial conglomerate, and the reconciliation between Augusto Vandor – leader of the "participationists" – and Perón, the CGTA witnessed many of its unions joining the "62 Organizations," the Peronist political front of the CGT. Perón and his delegate, Jorge Paladino, followed a cautious line of opposition to the military junta, criticizing with moderation the neoliberal policies of the junta but waiting for discontent inside the government.[4] Despite this, in 1969 the CGTA still boasted 286,184 members;[8] while the Nueva Corriente de Opinión (or Participationism), headed by José Alonso and Construction Union leader Rogelio Coria, boasted 596,863 members; and the CGT Azopardo, headed by Vandor, boasted 770,085 members and the majority in the Confederal Congress.[8]

Assassinations of the leadership and conflict with the far left

The 1969 assassination of UOM Secretary General Augusto Vandor, and that of the CGT Secretary General, José Alonso, in 1970, created a power vacuum that left Vandor's conservative successor at the UOM, Lorenzo Miguel, at the CGT's leading power-broker. He leveraged his influence to advance a rival within the UOM, José Ignacio Rucci, as the new Secretary General of the CGT. The pragmatic Miguel thus turned a rival into an ally, while impeding the more combative Light and Power workers' leader, Agustín Tosco, from rising to the powerful post.[9]

Rucci maintained good relations with the dictatorship and earned the aging Perón's friendship. The next years were blemished by often bloody internal disputes and the fight against the leftist Montoneros, however, and in September 1973, a commando killed Secretary-General Rucci. The Montoneros, who neither claimed

Following the failure of a 120-day strike at the Fabril Financiera industrial conglomerate, and the reconciliation between Augusto Vandor – leader of the "participationists" – and Perón, the CGTA witnessed many of its unions joining the "62 Organizations," the Peronist political front of the CGT. Perón and his delegate, Jorge Paladino, followed a cautious line of opposition to the military junta, criticizing with moderation the neoliberal policies of the junta but waiting for discontent inside the government.[4] Despite this, in 1969 the CGTA still boasted 286,184 members;[8] while the Nueva Corriente de Opinión (or Participationism), headed by José Alonso and Construction Union leader Rogelio Coria, boasted 596,863 members; and the CGT Azopardo, headed by Vandor, boasted 770,085 members and the majority in the Confederal Congress.[8]

The 1969 assassination of UOM Secretary General Augusto Vandor, and that of the CGT Secretary General, José Alonso, in 1970, created a power vacuum that left Vandor's conservative successor at the UOM, Lorenzo Miguel, at the CGT's leading power-broker. He leveraged his influence to advance a rival within the UOM, José Ignacio Rucci, as the new Secretary General of the CGT. The pragmatic Miguel thus turned a rival into an ally, while impeding the more combative Light and Power workers' leader, Agustín Tosco, from rising to the powerful post.[9]

Rucci maintained good relations with the dictatorship and earned the aging Perón's friendship. The next years were blemished by often bloody internal disputes and the fight against the leftist Montoneros, however, and in September 1973, a commando killed Secretary-General Rucci. The Montoneros, who neither claimed responsibility nor denied it, wer

Rucci maintained good relations with the dictatorship and earned the aging Perón's friendship. The next years were blemished by often bloody internal disputes and the fight against the leftist Montoneros, however, and in September 1973, a commando killed Secretary-General Rucci. The Montoneros, who neither claimed responsibility nor denied it, were accused of Rucci's death,[10] and the event triggered an escalating conflict between left and right-wing Peronists spearheaded by the Montoneros and the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, respectively. Other CGT leaders killed by leftists include Machine and Autoworkers Union head Dirk Kloosterman and Construction Union head Rogelio Coria.[11]

Staunchly anti-Communist, in 1975 the CGT affiliated itself with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Following the March 1976 coup, however, 10,000 factory delegates, on a total of 100,000, were arrested.[12] During the Dirty War of the second half of the 1970s at least 2,700, or 30%, of the disappeared were blue-collar workers;[13] this included numerous CGT leaders and activists, notably René Salamanca of the Córdoba Auto Workers' Union and Light and Power Union leader Oscar Smith. At first temporarily suspended, the CGT was then dissolved by the junta. Despite having been outlawed, by 1978 the CGT unions had reorganized themselves into two factions: one supporting frontal opposition to the dictatorship (known initially as the "Commission of 25"), and the other supporting negotiation with the military, named at first CNT and then CGT-Azopardo (led by Ramón Baldassini and Jorge Triaca); both the CGT-Brasil and the CGT-Azopardo were named after the streets on which the headquarters were located. CGT-Azopardo was thus able to negotiate with the military dictatorship the control of employee health insurance organizations.[14]

The CGT and labor in general was suppressed not only directly, but by a sharp turn to the right in economic policy embodied by Economy Minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz. Repeated The CGT and labor in general was suppressed not only directly, but by a sharp turn to the right in economic policy embodied by Economy Minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz. Repeated wage freezes that led to a 40% decline in real pay, as well as free trade policies and financial deregulation that damaged industrial output and domestic credit, adversely impacted the CGT.[15] The "25" thus proclaimed the first of a series of general strikes against the dictatorship on April 27, 1979, and its leadership was jailed. Though still officially banned, these unions reconstituted the CGT as "CGT-Brasil" on November 7, 1980, and elected Beer Workers Union leader Saúl Ubaldini as Secretary General. The regrouped CGT called a second general strike on July 22, 1981, as a wave of bank failures led to sharp recession, and rallied tens of thousands. Even larger numbers responded to its call on March 30, 1982, to demonstrate in favor of democracy on the Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, and in other cities throughout the country. Thousands were subsequently detained, and two days later, greatly weakened, the military junta began the Falklands War in an ill-fated attempt to bolster nationalistic feeling and unite the country behind its rule.[14]

Elections now imminent, the CGT was again split in 1982 over the issue of combativeness, with Plastics Union leader Jorge Triaca heading the pro-dialogue faction at Azopardo Street with the support of UOM leader Lorenzo Miguel, and Ubaldini again heading the more combative faction from Brasil Street. Disunity at the CGT and a renewed wave of strikes dovetailed into an effective campaign message by the Peronists' traditional rivals – the UCR and its nominee, Raúl Alfonsín – who denounced both the ongoing chaos and the association between Labor and the junta, criticizing a "military-labor pact." Elected President of Argentina in 1983, he failed in 1984 to pass a new law through the Senate regulating trade unions and guaranteeing freedom of association, and in negotiations with the CGT, Alfonsín conceded the position of Minister of Labor to a CGT figure (Pasta Makers' Union leader Hugo Barrionuevo).[16]

The CGT was reunited under Ubaldini following the 1983 elections. Amid a renewed decline in real wages the CGT called 13 general strikes during Alfonsín's government, as well as hundreds of sectoral strikes. With hyperinflation corroding the economy by 1989, the CGT introduced a 26-point program to support Justicialist Party nominee Carlos Menem's presidential bid, including measures such as declaring a unilateral external debt default. Menem won the 1989 elections on a populist campaign platform, but entrusted the Ministry of Economy to the Bunge y Born company, a major agribusiness firm. This turn led to a rupture within the CGT in late 1989, though following a 1991 conference in which concern over new Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo's free-market policies ruled the agenda, the CGT was reunited under an agreement to keep the union in a stance of conditional support for the measures, which had already been reigniting economic growth. The intransigent Ubaldini was replaced by Light and Power Workers' leader Oscar Lescano.<

The CGT was reunited under Ubaldini following the 1983 elections. Amid a renewed decline in real wages the CGT called 13 general strikes during Alfonsín's government, as well as hundreds of sectoral strikes. With hyperinflation corroding the economy by 1989, the CGT introduced a 26-point program to support Justicialist Party nominee Carlos Menem's presidential bid, including measures such as declaring a unilateral external debt default. Menem won the 1989 elections on a populist campaign platform, but entrusted the Ministry of Economy to the Bunge y Born company, a major agribusiness firm. This turn led to a rupture within the CGT in late 1989, though following a 1991 conference in which concern over new Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo's free-market policies ruled the agenda, the CGT was reunited under an agreement to keep the union in a stance of conditional support for the measures, which had already been reigniting economic growth. The intransigent Ubaldini was replaced by Light and Power Workers' leader Oscar Lescano.[16]

The move caused some dissent, however, and led to the establishment of the Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (CTA), led by Víctor de Gennaro, and to the development of a dissident faction led by Truckers' Union leader Hugo Moyano, the MTA. Menem's ample victories in the 1991 mid-term elections gave momentum to his agenda of labour reforms, many of which included restricting overtime pay and easing indemnifications for layoffs, for instance. Under pressure from the rank-and-file, Lescano called for a general strike late in 1992 (the first during the Menem tenure). Increasingly marginalized within the Justicialist Party, however, he resigned the following May in favor of Steelworkers' leader Naldo Brunelli.

The CGT endorsed Menem's 1995 re-election campaign; but following a sharp recession, the CGT, CTA, and MTA reacted jointly in mid-1996 with two general strikes against the government's neoliberal policies, whose emphasis on free trade and sharp productivity gains they believed responsible for the highest unemployment rates since the great depression.[17] Aside from these shows of force, the CGT, led by Food Processing Union leader Rodolfo Daer, remained conciliatory with the anti-labor Menem for the sake of the Justicialist Party. The party's defeats in the 1997 mid-term elections bode poorly for their chances in 1999 (elections they went on to lose).[18]

Cohesiveness within the CGT was again strained in 2000. President Fernando de la Rúa's push for labor law flexibilization ended in scandal and undid his rapprochement with Daer and the CGT leadership; Daer's conciliatory stance, in turn, resulted in a "Rebel" CGT faction led by Julio Piumato and made Moyano's break with the CGT official. The collapse of de la Rúa's government in late 2001 made way for the parliamentary selection of former Buenos Aires Province Governor Eduardo Duhalde, whose alliance to MTA leader Hugo Moyano helped lead to the gathering of much of what remained of the CGT under his leadership. The reunited CGT elected Moyano Secretary General in 2004. Benefiting from a close alliance with Kirchnerism (in power in Argentine Government since 2003), Moyano leveraged his capacity as head of the Council on Salaries (an officially sanctioned advisory board) to secure a stronger collective bargaining position and frequent increases in the minimum wage.[19]

From the 1990s onward, and in spite its strength as the only labor representative in many forums, the CGT has faced growing opposition from other trade unions, such as the CTA, or the left-leaning grassroots organisations of unemployed people known as Piqueteros (Picketing Men), groups first in evidence during the Menem years which later become tenuously allied with the Kirchner administrations.

The CGT, as fractious historically as its political partner the Justicialist Party, continued to be beset by disunity, moreover. Long-standing differences with Restaurant Workers' leader Luis Barrionuevo led to a new schism within the CGT during 2008, when Barrionuevo led 40 unions into a "Blue-and-White" CGT. Moyano secured his reelection as CGT head, however, and retained the support of 134 unions, including most of the larger ones.[20] His alliance with Kirchnerism eroded quickly after the 2011 elections, however. Largely sidelined during the campaign and denied demands to include more CGT officials in the Front for Victory party list for Congress,[21] Moyano's alliance with the Kirchner administration effectively ended with a series of strikes called by the Trucking Workers' Union (led by his son, Pablo) during June 2012,[22] and by July Moyano had lost the support of most of the larger unions. These latter rallied behind Steelworkers' Union (UOM) leader Antonio Caló, who was

From the 1990s onward, and in spite its strength as the only labor representative in many forums, the CGT has faced growing opposition from other trade unions, such as the CTA, or the left-leaning grassroots organisations of unemployed people known as Piqueteros (Picketing Men), groups first in evidence during the Menem years which later become tenuously allied with the Kirchner administrations.

The CGT, as fractious historically as its political partner the Justicialist Party, continued to be beset by disunity, moreover. Long-standing differences with Restaurant Workers' leader Luis Barrionuevo led to a new schism within the CGT during 2008, when Barrionuevo led 40 unions into a "Blue-and-White" CGT. Moyano secured his reelection as CGT head, however, and retained the support of 134 unions, including most of the larger ones.[20] His alliance with Kirchnerism eroded quickly after the 2011 elections, however. Largely sidelined during the campaign and denied demands to include more CGT officials in the Front for Victory party list for Congress,[21] Moyano's alliance with the Kirchner administration effectively ended with a series of strikes called by the Trucking Workers' Union (led by his son, Pablo) during June 2012,[22] and by July Moyano had lost the support of most of the larger unions. These latter rallied behind Steelworkers' Union (UOM) leader Antonio Caló, who was elected Secretary General of the "official" CGT in October while Moyano continued to lead the now "dissident" CGT in a loose alliance with Barrionuevo and Pablo Micheli of the Dissident CTA.[23]

The four-year schism ended in 2016 following a series of austerity measures decreed by newly elected President Mauricio Macri.[24] Representatives of most CGT unions agreed on a framework on July 22 that would reunify the CGT under a triumvirate led by Rodolfo Daer, Juan Carlos Schmidt, and Carlos Acuña. Each represents the three CGT factions: Daer, the CGT-Alsina led by Antonio Caló; Schmidt, the CGT-Azopardo led by Hugo Moyano; and Acuña, the Blue & White CGT (the most conservative) led by Luis Barrionuevo. The triumvirate was formally sworn in on August 22.[25]


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