The emergence of the empresas recuperas por sus trabajadores: A political, economic, and sociological appraisal.

Euricse Working Paper n. 55|13

Marcelo Alejandro Vieta, 2013

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Résumé :

The crisis of Argentina’s neoliberal model that escalated throughout the 1990s, driven in part by the zealousness of how IMF-sanctioned structural reforms were implemented, would eventually culminate in the model’s temporary implosion over the years spanning the turn of the millennium. For workers living through this crisis, traditional union tactics would prove unresponsive to the neoliberal juggernaut, while the state was on the defensive as business bankruptcy, informal work, unemployment, and poverty rates soared to unprecedented levels during this period.

But the crisis of neoliberalism that so deeply affected the everyday lives of Argentina’s working people and their families also proved to be, for some of them, an opening for experimenting with other possibilities for organizing production and economic life. As businesses increasingly failed, more and more workers from a broad cross-section of Argentina’s urban-based economy began taking matters into their own hands by occupying and self-managing the troubled workplaces that had been employing them as worker cooperatives. Today throughout Argentina, almost 9,500 workers selfmanage over 200 empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (worker-recuperated enterprises, or ERTs) in sectors as varied as printing and publishing, media, metallurgy, health provisioning, foodstuffs, shipbuilding, waste management, construction, education, tourism, and energy.

The aim of this working paper is to provide a political economic and sociological overview of the rise and establishment of ERTs in Argentina over the past two decades. It does so in order to introduce ERTs to readers that might not be familiar with the Argentine experience of workplace conversions to worker cooperatives and their recent historical emergence. It also gives context to what is arguably, as I will detail in forthcoming research, a new form of hybrid social economy organization— a “solidarity worker cooperative/work integration social enterprise.” In this respect, ERTs are a type of hybrid labour-managed firm that uniquely formed, in the Argentine political economic and sociological context, from out of the takeover and conversion of a formerly investor-owned or proprietary business into a worker cooperative by workers themselves.

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