[Marxism] Argentina: Rank-and-file candidates win election in Coca-Cola plant in Buenos Aires

Juan Andres Gallardo juanagallardo at gmail.com
Thu May 2 15:06:51 MDT 2013


Rank-and-file candidates win election in Coca-Cola plant in Buenos Aires

by : PTS, Argentina
Monday 29 April 2013

Thursday, 25 April 2013

On April 21 and 22, the election for the shop stewards committee at the
Coca-Cola plant in Pompeya, Buenos Aires city, took place. The
rank-and-file list, called Lista Marrón (Brown List) was backed by 43% of
the workforce in a 93% turn out. The Lista Verde (Green List), backed by
the union leadership, came second, and a split from the Green List came
third. The plant has 609 workers and we spoke with two members of the newly
elected shop stewards committee.

Oscar Zunzunegui explained how they won the election. “The Lista Marrón won
because the election took place in a climate of discontent in the plant. On
the one hand, salaries have not increased for a year, and inflation is
making itself felt. On the other hand, the additional tax on salaries is
reducing our take home pay. There are three more reasons for this result:
firstly, our gains are being undermined while the bosses are cutting costs
and are investing millions in front of our eyes. Secondly, the former shop
stewards committee – aligned with the Union Sutiaga (under the control of
CGT leader Hugo Moyano) – was divided and split into two lists. Workers had
been demanding that the union call assemblies so they could discuss and
participate, and for the union to listen to their demands and take into
account their needs in the collective agreement negotiations. None of these
things happened. This situation was generating discontent and anger among
the rank and file. Thirdly, an agreement reached in the 1990s at a company
level by which we are obliged to work on bank holidays and at a lower rate,
was challenged by the workforce. I would say that all these factors
contributed to workers voting for our list. Our list not only put forward a
programme that defends workers’ rights but has also condemned the
pro-management policies of the trade union leaders. Our list is known among
workers for defending workers’ rights and for acting in a consistent
fashion; as a result many workers trusted us and supported us as has been
shown by the election results. We obtained 70 votes more than the
bureaucracy and 100 votes more than the list that had split from the
bureaucracy. The election shows that there is a need for change for the
better and workers think that we represent that change.

Pablo Silvestri told us that the ‘Lista Marrón’ is a workers’ rank-and-file
trade union current, which is anti-bureaucratic and opposed to the bosses,
and has been organised inside the factory for six years now. It is composed
of some militants of the PTS, but mainly of independent workers, with whom
we come together to give an answer to the problems we are facing in our
factory. The Lista Marrón was born out of the struggles inside our factory
over recent years. Most of us played a role in the reorganisation of the
plant; we have won control of the shop stewards committee and there has
been an increase in trade union militancy. We are very proud of this
historic battle. We were an active and combative opposition whilst the
‘official list’ was in power. During the last few years, the relatively
good agreements negotiated by the trade union leaders contributed to the
Lista Verde keeping control. Nevertheless, we had always managed to get
around 200 votes, which was encouraging.

Our history has been linked to the defence of the most oppressed group of
workers within the factory, i.e. those who are on temporary contracts or
who are outsourced workers like the cleaners. One of our demands is for
their incorporation into the permanent staff within the same agreement.

The candidates of the Lista Marrón that have just won the elections are
activists in the Agrupación Marrón (Brown Current). At the beginning it was
only few of us, but as time went by we managed to organise more brothers
and sisters representing different shifts and sections in our factory. The
truth is that neither the trade union leaders nor the former delegates had
any answers to the problems of the workforce. Anger was mounting and we
started to receive the support and sympathy of sections of workers who
hadn’t voted for us previously. In a previous election we lost in one
department by only three votes. In this election, without including the
seven candidates who were elected, more than 30 brothers and sisters
campaigned for the list inside the plant. The day of the election we were
prepared for the possibility of election fraud. The increase in our vote
constitutes a breakthrough by our current and, without doubt, opens up the
possibility of winning more workers to our ranks. By winning the shop
stewards committee, whose mandate will start on Thursday, 2 May 2013, we
set ourselves the task of putting in place a trade union rank-and-file
organisation that defends and supports all our colleagues’ claims: to unite
all sectors in our factory; to call assemblies so all workers can
participate in the decisions; and to fulfil our mandate.

*Translated by Alejandra Ríos*

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