Workers in Argentina Take Charge of Abandoned Factories

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Sat Jul 5 21:27:35 MDT 2003

Workers in Argentina Take Charge of Abandoned Factories

BUENOS AIRES, July 5 -- The workers at the IMPA aluminum plant here all
can remember when their company was privately owned, and a few
veterans even recall when it was the property of the state. But these
days, as the result of the worst economic crisis in the country's
history, it is the workers themselves who are the factory's
stockholders and managers.

When the economy collapsed here 18 months ago, the situation was so
bad that the owners of many factories simply shut their doors and
walked away, in most cases owing their employees months and months of
back pay. Rather than accept that situation, workers — backed by
neighborhood associations and left-wing groups enamored with the idea
of "people's capitalism" — have sometimes been able to persuade
bankruptcy courts to let them take over the company's assets.

"The only boss here now is the customer," said Plácido Peñarieta, one
of nine employees at the Chilavert Artes Gráficas cooperative, which
prints art books and posters, calendars and concert programs. "We've
learned to depend on ourselves and nobody else."


But with the Argentine economy -- especially companies that export
goods -- finally showing some signs of recovery, the original owners
of some plants have resurfaced. That has led to legal struggles with
workers and, in one recent case, even violence.


"It was difficult to get started because even though the company had a
reputation, people did not believe that we workers were capable of
managing things," said Jorge Luján Gutiérrez, an employee of the
Chilavert print shop. "We had to show that the high level of quality
was still intact and that the only thing missing was a few executives
in the front office"

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