An early attempt at labor regulation in the Global South: The Argentine Ley Nacional del Trabajo of 1904 and the response of working-class organizations

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Abstract

In the first months of 1904, in a context of intense labor unrest, the Argentine executive branch presented to Congress a bill that became known as the ‘National Labor Law’ (Ley Nacional del Trabajo). It comprised a very extensive set of rules designed to regulate the labor market, the labor process and workers’ organizations. By that time, Argentina had a growing capitalist economy, a young and radical labor movement and no labor regulations whatsoever – in this context, the bill was the first attempt of regulating the relations between capital and labor and, not surprisingly, it sparked an important debate. Although it never became a law, the bill became an iconic reference in the history of labor regulations in Argentina. This article introduces the main characteristics of the proposed bill and focuses on the reactions that working-class organizations developed toward it. While anarchist-oriented groups and unions made clear its complete rejection toward an initiative that was seen as another intervention of an authoritarian state, the Socialist Party found itself in a much more complicated position. This article addresses these debates and tensions in order to better understand the reactions of working-class organizations with regard to the first attempt of labor regulation made by the Argentine state.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLabor History
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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