Wages and labor relations during Francoist developmentalism: the role of the new unionism

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The relation between wage growth and the reconstruction of the labor movement in Spain, during the developmentalist Francoist regime (1957-1975), has been controversial. Applying the power resources theory in order to explain wage growth, this paper argues that the rise of the labor share was the result of the increased bargaining power of workers in spite of repressive policies of the Francoist government. The action of new trade unionism mobilized the following power resources. First, the structural power increased as a consequence of techno-economics transformations of Fordism and a generational change of the labor force. Second, the associational power increased due to new organizational forms, with more democratic modes of collective action and combining clandestine and legal actions, and the reappearance of collective bargaining with the Law of Collective Bargaining Agreements of 1958. These political opportunities opened up the possibility to the new trade unionist of developing the strategy of entryism that served as the driving force for worker mobilization. Consequently, the new trade unionists could mobilize their power resources in the three spheres, exchange, production, and politics, as a strategy by accelerating collaborative action, establishing a discursive and cultural framework, and allowing the articulation of the different trade union actions. In this way, internal solidarity was favored when a collective agreement was negotiated at the company or sector level (and not an individual contract, as it has been to date), due to the links with the social activities characteristic of the paternalistic management of labor relations and the presence of anti-Francoist organizations, the “network embeddedness” was strengthened. In turn, the successes in the consequence of wage increases and solidarity with other workers who were suffering repression increased the narrative resources that frame union actions. All this made it possible to counterbalance in part for the restrictions imposed by the dictatorship, which weakened the structural power of workers in the political sphere. The main contribution to the existing knowledge on the issue consists in explaining the apparent paradox between the wage policy of the Francoist government (oriented towards wage restriction) and the increase in labor share. This also serves to understand how labor markets and the wage-setting mechanism worked from a historical point of view. As a corollary, the previous analysis implies that the most important factor was the ability to mobilize workers successfully. The union strategy that combined democratic instruments of representation (assemblies) with clandestine and legal actions served as a catalyst for other productive and social changes. This reflects the primacy of the action of social actors for the worker mobilization theory.
Cardenas L (2024). Wages and Labor Relations during Francoist Developmentalism: The Role of the New Unionism. International Labor and Working-Class History 1–18. S0147547923000339