General Confederation of Labour (Argentina)

General Confederation of Labour (Argentina)
Logo cgtra.png
Full name General Confederation of Labour of the Argentine Republic
Native name Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina
Founded September 27, 1930
Members 3,000,000[1]
Country Argentina
Affiliation ITUC
Key people Hugo Moyano, Secretary General
Office location Azopardo 802
Buenos Aires, Argentina

The General Confederation of Labour of the Argentine Republic (in Spanish: Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina, CGT) is a national trade union centre of Argentina founded on September 27, 1930, as the result of the merge of the USA (Unión Sindical Argentina) and the COA (Confederación Obrera Argentina) trade union centres. Nearly Two out of three unionized workers in Argentina belong to the CGT, and it is one of the largest trade unions in the world.[1]


The CGT during the Infamous Decade

Retail Workers' Union leader Ángel Borlenghi, who became Juan Perón's closest ally in the labour movement.

The CGT was founded on 27 September 1930, the result of an agreement between Socialists and Revolutionary Syndicalists, to which the Communists later joined themselves, leading to the merge between the Unión Sindical Argentina (USA), which had succeeded to the FORA IX (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation of the IXth Congress), and the Confederación Obrera Argentina (COA).

During the Infamous Decade of the 1930s and subsequent industrial development, the CGT began to form itself as a strong union, competing with the historical anarchist FORA V (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation of the Vth Congress). The CGT was then mainly present in the railroad industry (in particular in the Unión Ferroviaria and La Fraternidad). It was headed by José Domenech (Unión Ferroviaria), Ángel Borlenghi (Confederación General de Empleados de Comercio) and Francisco Pérez Leirós (Unión de Obreros Municipales). 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).[2]

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 re-founded, in 1937, the Unión Sindical Argentina. However, in 1942 the CGT again split, into 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, graphism) and some important Socialist unions (such as the retail workers' union led by Borlenghi and the municipal workers' union led by Pérez Leirós).

The CGT following the "Revolution of '43"

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 Domingo Perón. Again the CGT was 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 17 October 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. In 1947, the Labour Party merged into the Peronist Party. Afterwards, the CGT became one of the strongest arms of the Peronist Movement, and the only trade union centre recognised 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).[3]

The number of unionized workers grew markedly during the Perón years, from 1 million to 6 million (all belonging to the one of the CGT's 2,500 affiliated unions).[4] 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%.[4][5]

From the 1950s to the 1980s democratic transition

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 destabilisation 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 andPresident 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.[3]

The 1968 split between the CGT-Azopardo and the CGT de los Argentinos

José Alonso, who led a fractious CGT in the 1960s
José Ignacio Rucci
Saúl Ubaldini

In 1968, the CGT divided itself into the CGT-Azopardo, which gathered proponents of collaboration with the military junta (also named "participationists", they included 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 the graphist Raimundo Ongaro. The CGTA, which also included the Córdoba Light and Power Workers' leader Agustín Tosco, notably participated to the Cordobazo uprising in 1969, during which it called for a general strike. The military junta then jailed most of its members, who were also close to the Grupo Cine Liberación film movement and the Movimiento de Sacerdotes para el Tercer Mundo, a group of priests close to the Liberation Theology.[3]

Following the failure of a 120 days strike at the Fabril Financiera, and the reconciliation between Augusto Vandor, leader of the "participationists", with Juan 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.[3]

Despite this, in 1969, the CGTA still boasted 286,184 members,[6] while the Nueva Corriente de Opinión (or Participationism), headed by José Alonso and Rogelio Coria boasted 596,863 members and the CGT Azopardo, headed by Vandor, boasted 770,085 members and the majority in the Confederal Congress.[6]

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.[7]

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,[8] and the event triggered an escalating conflict between left and right-wing Peronists spearheaded by the Montoneros and the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, respectively.[9]

Dirty War

In 1975 the CGT affiliated itself with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) opposed to Communism. Following the March 1976 coup, 10,000 factory delegates, on a total of 100,000, were arrested.[10] During the Dirty War of the second half of the 1970s, many of the CGT's leaders and activists disappeared. At first temporarily suspended, the CGT was then dissolved by the junta. Despite having been outlawed, the trade unions reorganized themselves into two factions, one supporting frontal opposition to the dictatorship, and called first "the 25" then the CGT-Brasil, led by Saúl Ubaldini, and the other supporting negotiation with the military, named at first CNT and then CGT-Azopardo (led by Jorge Triaca). Both the CGT-Brasil and the CGT-Azopardo were named after the streets on which the headquarters were located. The CGT-Azopardo negotiated with the military dictatorship the control of the medical-care health-insurance organisations (obras sociales).

On 27 April 1979, "the 25" proclaimed the first of a series of general strikes against the dictatorship. In November 1980, despite their being proscribed, they re-formed the CGT, thereafter known as CGT-Brasil, and on 7 November 1980, the latter called forth the first open demonstration against the junta. The grievances were topped by both repression and by the policies of Economy Minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who had enacted repeated wage freezes and free trade policies and had presided over declines in real wages and industrial output which particularly impacted the CGT.[11] Amid a sharp recession, on 30 March 1982, tens of thousands responded to its call to demonstrate in favour of democracy on 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 attempt to bolster nationalism feelings and unite the country behind its rule.

The CGT since the return to democracy

Rank-and-file from the CGT's largest section, the Steel and Metal Workers' Union, demonstrates in Buenos Aires in 2006.

After the Falklands War, Raúl Alfonsín denounced the association between Labour and the junta, criticizing a "military-labour pact". After his election as President of Argentina in 1983, he failed on passing through the Senate a new law regulating trade unions and guaranteeing freedom of association. In his negotiations with the CGT, Alfonsín conceded the position of Minister of Labour to CGT man Hugo Barrionuevo.

Under Saúl Ubaldini's guidance, the CGT launched 13 general strikes during Alfonsín's government. In 1989, with an hyperinflation corroding the economy, the CGT introduced a 26-point programme to support Carlos Menem's bid to the Presidency, including measures such as declaring a unilateral external debt default. Justicialist candidate Carlos 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.

Hugo Moyano

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.[12] Aside from these shows of force, the CGT, led by Construction Workers' leader Gerardo Martínez, remained conciliatory with the anti-labour 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).[13]

Moyano's rapproachment with the CGT was again strained in the year 2000, when President Fernando de la Rúa's plans to make Argentina's labour laws more flexible distanced him from the CGT leadership led by Rodolfo Daer, whose conciliatory stance led to a "Rebel" CGT led by Julio Piumato. 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 the administrations of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, Moyano has 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.[14]

In recent years, and in spite its strength as the only labour 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 have since become tenuously allied with the Kirchner administrations.

See also

Syndicalism.svg Organized labour portal


  1. ^ a b "Un paso más para avanzar con la democracia sindical". Sur. 
  2. ^ Goethem, Geert van. The Amsterdam International: The World of the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), 1913–1945. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. p. 296.
  3. ^ a b c d Joseph A. Page (1983). Perón: A Biography. Random House. 
  4. ^ a b "El Gobierno Peronista". Historia Argentina. 
  5. ^ "Peronismo". Monografías. 
  6. ^ a b Oscar R. Anzorena, Tiempo de violencia y utopía (1966-1976), Editorial Contrapunto, 1987, p.51 (Spanish)
  7. ^ "Murió Lorenzo Miguel, el mayor símbolo del poder sindical". Clarín. 
  8. ^ "Analizan una indemnización que ya cobró la familia Rucci". Clarín. 
  9. ^ Luís Fernando Beraza. "José Ignacio Rucci, El precio de la lealtad". Soles Digital. 
  10. ^ Hugo Moreno, Le désastre argentin. Péronisme, politique et violence sociale (1930-2001), editions Syllepse, 2005, p.144 (French)
  11. ^ "El derrumbe de salarios y la plata dulce". Clarín. 
  12. ^ "1996". Todo Argentina. 
  13. ^ "1999". Todo Argentina. 
  14. ^ "El Consejo del Salario, la prueba de fuego para renovar el diálogo entre empresas y gremios". Sitio Andino. 

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